So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Barefoot Gen, Volume 8: Merchants of Death

Barefoot Gen, Volume 8: Merchants of Death by Keiji Nakazawa
The Barefoot Gen series of 10 graphic novels tells the story of the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima Japan through the eyes of a young boy Gen Nakaoka who relates the events lived through by the author Keiji Nakazawa. Gen's father, sister and brother were killed during the blast; his mother died several years later from radiation sickness. Gen is in Middle School and living with his older brother Koji and his younger brother Akira in the shack his family built from the ruins of the blast.
Book 8, Merchants of Death begins in June of 1950 with the beginning of the Korean War. Hiroshima has been rebuilding from the ruins of the blast and the war brings business to local merchants willing to supply materials for the war. With the war comes a crackdown on Communists and their sympathizers. Many in Hiroshima, remembering the horror of the atomic blast, are strongly pacifist. Anti-war feelings are looked on with suspicion by the occupying Americans and the Japanese government. It is from the war profiteering that the book draws its title.
In the first book Gen's father was constantly in trouble for speaking out against Japanese involvement in World War II. Here we see a similar current of suppression of those who speak out against war and militarism as Japan serves as a home base for American soldiers fighting the Korean War. This is an eloquent plea for cooperative action over militarism in a quest for world peace.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Revelation by Peggy Payne
Revelation portrays one year in the life of a small town Presbyterian pastor as he struggles with his calling. Happily married and successful, Swain Hammond's life is shaken when he hears God talking to him in the backyard of his home in Chapel Hill, NC. Having been sure of his calling to the ministry since he was young, hearing the voice of God at first reaffirms him, but later begins to be an unsettling influence. The members of his church are not ready to accept that their minister is in direct communication with God. Peggy Payne takes us deep into the contemporary meanings of religion and spirituality as we share this year with Swain, his wife Julie, and the members of his small community church.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Being Mortal

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
A neighbor gave me this book when my mother died and it took me a long time to read it. The topics it covers are the end of life, the medical response to terminal illness, and the needs of people facing their mortality. It was very hard for me to read about these things after spending 15 years watching my mother's health deteriorate and seeing her die from dementia. However, reading about the realities that we as humans face at the end of our lives, and how others have dealt well with dying, has been remarkably healing for me. I wish I had read this book a year ago so I would have had this information when I was living through my mother's final days. This book is not only useful to the terminally ill and their families, but can be helpful to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of the aging process and how it plays out for humans.