Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wading Through My Wishlist



Recent additions to the Great Monstrosity that is my wishlist....


Polish-born Kramer, president of the Holocaust Resource Foundation at Kean University, was a teenager when her family and others hid from the Nazis in a secret bunker, rescued by a former housekeeper and her husband, a reputed drunken anti-Semite who turned out to be an avenging angel. Kramer's extensive recollections range from a liaison that threatened the household and daily squabbles in the tomblike underground quarters where food was scarce to their fear of discovery by the Nazis and the shock and desperation of learning about relatives and friends who had been killed. Her sister was sold out by a neighbor boy for a few liters of vodka. This vividly detailed and taut narrative is a fitting tribute to the bravery of victims and righteous gentiles alike.


Cleopatra, or Kleopatra as her name is spelled in Greek, inherited little from her father, Ptolemy XII, other than his Macedonian profile and the throne of Egypt. Where he was obese, indolent, and self-indulgent, the young queen was cunning, ambitious, and ruthless. Ptolemy, through gross mismanagement and a series of disastrous financial alliances with Rome, had alienated the Egyptian people to the point of rebellion. After his death, Kleopatra was exiled by her brother/husband and his cabinet. First novelist Essex focuses on Kleopatra's early years and on her Greek origins. The Greek-speaking Ptolemy pharaohs neither knew nor cared about the customs of Egypt, but Kleopatra learned the Egyptian language, something no Ptolemy had done before. In return, the Egyptians gave her their support in her struggle to wrest the throne from her brother. (Found via The True Book Addict)


Seven hundred years ago, a Spanish doctor named Arnold of Villanova wanted to make a baby. He put semen in a womb-shaped vase and waited. The result was disappointing. We can shake our heads at the naivete of believing sperm contains teeny-tiny human beings just needing the proper place to grow. But physician and medical journalist Randi Hutter Epstein is here to tell us in "Get Me Out," her engrossing survey of the history of childbirth, that even with all of today's whiz-bang technology, "we are still in the dark about so many things that go into making babies."  The history of childbirth is filled with grief as well as joy, and not all the stories amuse. Later, the author raises questions about the moral, legal and medical consequences of the growing -- and little-regulated -- fertility industry. The description of doctors watching over frozen, sperm-filled vials echoes, however faintly, the story of Arnold of Villanova and his vase. Childbirth has come a very long way since that experiment, but perhaps not as far as we would like to think.


What do you say, readers? Sound good/bad? Have you read any of these?

5 comments:

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I've had my eye on the Kleopatra book for a bit now....looking forward to your review since that will probably be the deciding factor. :P

Amy @ Passages to the Past said...

I actually hadn't heard of any of these, so thanks for the heads up.

The Get Me Out book looks interesting!

Kristi said...

I had not yet heard of these. Clara's War looks like one that I would enjoy.

StephanieD said...

That Villanova experiment tells you a lot, doesn't it? Women were literally considered mere "vessels" of life.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.