This is the next group of books going to the library for donation. As always, there are great memories here. Writing these summaries gives me the chance to say goodbye and remember the great things about reading these books. I hope they go to happy homes and I’m able to share these happy memories with strangers. Or, if anyone is interested in one of them, let me know, and I’ll get it to you.
The Stuff: The book contains three main parts: 1) The Myth, 2) The Expedition, and 3) The Rise and Fall of Ubar. In the first part, Clapp recounts how he and his wife Kay were part of a program returning a small group of Arabian oryxes from the San Diego Zoo to the wild in Saudi Arabia. While there, Clapp heard of the lost city of Ubar that Allah destroyed for its wickedness. He became intrigued, believing there was more to it than just a story, and set out to find it. In part two, he mounts an expedition that does indeed find ruins. This chapter includes drawings. The final chapter includes a sketch of what life might have been like in Ubar. It is speculation.
Clapp writes with a filmmaker’s drama and visual awareness, making an absorbing read. Archaeologists debate his conclusions. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book.
Bio: Nicholas Clapp (b. 1936) is an American writer, filmmaker, lecturer, and amateur archaeologist. According to his mini-bio at IMDB, he has worked on National Geographic Specials and two movies, Lost City of Arabia (1992) and The Road to Ubar (1996). His books include Virginia City: To Dance with the Devil (2016), Bodie: Good Times & Bad (2017), and The Outlaw’s Violin: Or Farewell, Old West (2019).
Title: The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands
Author: Nicholas Clapp (b. 1936)
First published: 1998
The Stuff: This is similar to The Road to Ubar in that the author begins with an ancient legend and then seeks archaeological evidence for the legend. In this case, the subject is the story of the Queen of Sheba. The reading was interesting more for traveling than for the speculation—and there was a lot of speculation. The stores a fun, but historic…?
Bio: Nicholas Clapp (b. 1936) see The Road to Ubar
Title: Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of a Legendary Queen
Author: Nicholas Clapp (b. 1936)
First published: 2001
The Stuff: This is a biography of Margaretha Zelle MacLeod, better known by her stage name, Mata Hari. She was an exotic dancer and sex worker executed by firing squad by the French military for spying for the Germans in 1917. Ostrovsky writes sympathetically, opening her narrative with a fictionalized account of M’greeta’s (as the family called her) happy free-spirited childhood. Regarding known events in her adulthood, she takes more pains to adhere to known facts. Some aspects remain murky to this day.
Bio: Erika Ostrovsky (b. 1926) was born in Vienna. She studied in France and the United States. She taught French literature at New York University. Her best-known work is perhaps Voyeur Voyant (1972), a biography of the French poet Louis‐Ferdinand Cline.
Title: Eye of Dawn: The Rise and Fall of Mata Hari
Author: Erika Ostrovsky (b. 1926)
First published: 1978
The Stuff: Because the author is a philosopher, the book is primarily concerned with the subjects of philosophy and ethics. It’s not a matter of defending against thickheaded creationist attacks against evolution; it is a far more profound and graver matter. It involves a worldview that denies the essence of science and attacks empiricism as atheistic by nature.
Pennock shows in careful step-by-step fashion why this is a poor argument. From a Quaker background, he is not hostile to religion. He doesn’t see religion as science. This book took me some time to get through, but it was well worth it.
Bio: According to his site, Robert T. Pennock is University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, where he “studies epistemic and ethical values in science and their connection to scientific methodology and practice. His empirical research involves questions at the intersection of evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and the scientific character, such as the evolution of altruism, complexity, and intelligence.” He also works to increase public understanding of science and STEM subjects.
In the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, he offered expert testimony. He’s written hundreds of books and articles. The present book, Tower of Babel, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. His latest book is An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Structure of Science (2019).
Title: Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism
Author: Robert T. Pennock
First published: 2000
The Stuff: This examines The Diary of Anne Frank as a work of literature and shows that Frank herself edited it with the intention that it should be read by a wide audience someday with such devices as giving alias to the other people hiding in the attic with her family. Prose traces how the diary was adapted for stage and movies.
One of her most detailed discussions deals with the persistent idea that the diary is a forgery. She describes the various scientific examinations that show its authenticity.
She also delves into the idea of using the book as a teaching tool—and how it is used.
I never read it for school, but I read it on my own for the first time when I was about eleven. I re-read it when I was sixteen or seventeen after I heard a school board member was trying to get it banned from the school library—to be sure I hadn’t missed something.
Bio: Francine Prose (b. 1947) is an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and critic. She is a visiting professor of literature at Bard College and former president of PEN American Center, a nonprofit organization that works to defend and celebrate free expression. Her fiction writing includes the novel Blue Angel (2000), the YA work, After (2003), and various children’s books based on Jewish folklore. She’s also written nonfiction works such as the biography, Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles (2005), and Reading like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (2006)
Title: Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, the Afterlife
Author: Francine Prose (b. 1947)
First published: 2009