books I've read

Anne Hawn's books

Who Moved My Cheese?
If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans
Scientific Secrets for Self-Control
Just One Damned Thing After Another
The Vanishing
Exercises in Knitting
The Good Dream
The Very Best of Edgar Allan Poe
The Chosen
BT-Kids' Knits
Talking God
The Professor
The Christmas Files
The Finisher
Home Decor for 18-Inch Dolls: Create 10 Room Settings with Furniture and 15 Outfits with Accessories
Dracula and Other Stories
A New Song
Christy
All Quiet on the Western Front
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents


Anne Hawn Smith's favorite books »

I'm reading 150 Books

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Long Way Gone

A Long Way GoneA Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the terrible wars in Africa. It is the story of a 12 year old boy who, along with some friends, is separated from his family when the rebels attack. The first quarter of the book is about the children's attempt to keep out of the way of either of the armies and to find their families. Eventually, they are caught by the army and given guns and drugs and turned into soldiers. The book does not go into great detail about all the atrocitis the children commit, but the ones that are alluded to are horrifying. The use of drugs and the tactics that engender hatred of the enemy are terrible.

One of the strongest things about this book is the ease with which children can be turned into terrorist. Ishmael Beah is able to give us enough of a glimpse into his pre-war life to realize that he is an intelligent and kind boy who was turned into a monster despite his intention to not become a soldier.

The last part of the book is his reclaimation and I was just in awe of the people who do this incredible work. One scene stays with me. The boys are in the reclaimation center with other boys who fought on the opposite side, but finally out of danger. Despite the work of the staff, they end up in a fight and boys are killed. The terrible brain-washing that inflames their hatered is so difficult to eradicate that even when they are safe, it is hard to let go of. To all the things that happen, the staff continues to convey to the boys that it is not their fault. That is probably one of the strongest messages...the boys are not at fault. They have been turned into killing machines by adults and used for their own ends.

This book is about Sierra Leone, but it is found all around the world. Children raised on hatred to this extent are unable to use the same kind of reasoning as adults and they kill blindly. Their childhood is being stolen from them and turned into something terrible.

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The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was excellent. The complicated relationship between the characters is rich and well articulated. I liked this especially because it gave me some insight into the complicated thinking of the Taliban and the people who are effected by them. Apart from that, the book was an excellent thriller.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Genie: A Scientific Tragedy

Genie: A Scientific TragedyGenie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of Genie is a truly a tragedy in every way. There was no "right" way for Genie. In some respects, it would have been better for Social Services to have given her to a family who would have raised her as a beloved pet. In actuality, that was the only level at which she could have happily functioned, but who would have thought that when she was found? Because of how she was raised, she was an empty slate, a perfect subject for understanding how language was learned and emotions were formed. No one would have denied her the right to learn as much as she possibly could, but when she began to level out and no further progress could be made, she became a problem with no solution. The people who studied her cared for her, but their job was to study her, not adopt her. Social Services then had the problem of where to place her. She wasn't a puppy. Even with her limited emotional development, leaving the people who spent so much time with her was difficult. There was no good answer, and it was apparent that she would again be "abused," although not intentionally.

The information gleaned from the study of her life was tremendous. In fact, what they learned from her made it possible to better help if another child was found. It is amazing to me that people's experiences actually "create" their brains. If children are raised like an animals, as with feral children, they develop aspects of the brain that help with survival, rather than language. Our brains respond to our environment. I think that was the rational I was given with respect to studying algebra...it seems a lot more sensible now.

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