On My Bookshelf, April 2016

Some Possible SolutionsSome Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips (2016)

I liked this one. Some of the stories were unsettling. All felt a little bit ethereal. Side note: I received this book for free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

From Amazon.com:Some Possible Solutions offers an idiosyncratic series of “What ifs”: What if your perfect hermaphrodite match existed on another planet? What if you could suddenly see through everybody’s skin to their organs? What if you knew the exact date of your death? What if your city was filled with doppelgangers of you? Forced to navigate these bizarre scenarios, Phillips’ characters search for solutions to the problem of how to survive in an irrational, infinitely strange world. In dystopias that are exaggerated versions of the world in which we live, these characters strive for intimacy and struggle to resolve their fraught relationships with each other, with themselves, and with their place in the natural world.”

Thousand Naked StrangersA Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard (2016)

This was good and covered a lot of ground – touching, funny, sad, frightening. A great read if you like memoirs and don’t mind the subject matter. I should probably note. . . this is not a blood and guts kind of book. Yes, Hazzard is telling you true stories here, but not to shock or disgust. It’s well done.

From Amazon.com: “A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe. In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.”

UndergroundUnderground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami (2000)

Yes, more Murakami. It is nonfiction this time though. Overall, I loved this book. It is basically an oral history of the Tokyo gas attacks. I have vague memories of the attacks (I was only 11 at the time, so watching the nightly news wasn’t really one of my hobbies but I do remember a general feeling of fear and shock), so it was nice to learn more of what happened and why.

From Amazon.com: “It was a clear spring day, Monday, March 20, 1995, when five members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo conducted chemical warfare on the Tokyo subway system using sarin, a poison gas twenty-six times as deadly as cyanide. The unthinkable had happened, a major urban transit system had become the target of a terrorist attack. In an attempt to discover why, Haruki Murakami. . . talked to the people who lived through the catastrophe—from a Subway Authority employee with survivor guilt, to a fashion salesman with more venom for the media than for the perpetrators, to a young cult member who vehemently condemns the attack though he has not quit Aum.”

Oregon TrailThe Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck (2015)

Spoiler alert! He did not die of dysentery.

This book was dense. Really dense. I think it could have been about a hundred pages shorter, but I enjoyed it. Rinker Buck is a lot of fun. As you follow his wagon, you learn about his life, his family, and numerous aspects of American history.

From Amazon.com: “An epic account of traveling the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way—in a covered wagon with a team of mules, an audacious journey that hasn’t been attempted in a century—which also chronicles the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country. Spanning two thousand miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific coast, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used the trail to emigrate West—scholars still regard this as the largest land migration in history—it united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads. Today, amazingly, the trail is all but forgotten.”

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