Books I Have Read Lately
Sam Harris's The End of Faith & Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker: I picked up these books on the same day, the Harris book because I'd heard a lot of people talking about it and the Dawkins book because it'd been a while since I'd read one of his. The Dawkins book was very good, as most of his books are, though there was less specific focus on the Argument from Design than I was expecting. (And much, much more about gradualism and punctualism than I probably ever needed to know.)
The Harris book I didn't really like. The central argument is that people should just stop believing in their various religions because they have no sound reasons to so believe. That's great and all, but it's completely pie-in-the-sky. In the meantime we have to live in this world, where there's absolutely no chance people will actually do that -- a fact the book seems completely unwilling to face. Additionally, in an effort to tar all religions with the same brush, Harris also makes a number of rather silly statements, particularly about Judaism, which he incorrectly treats as basically identical to both Christianity and Islam. As is common with Western writers on faith, he more or less completely ignores Buddhism and Hinduism as well.
Gregory Maguire's Wicked: I saw this in Kinko's while Jaimee was making copies, and bought it on a whim, again because I'd heard a lot of people talking about it. I've got to stop listening to other people. The book has a few moments of interest, usually when it's expounding upon or subtly perverting the world Frank L. Baum created, but overall it's completely forgettable, and doesn't have a whole lot to add to the world of Oz (which I wasn't ever that fond of to begin with).
Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis: Now here was the good stuff. Persepolis is the graphic-novel autobiography of Satrapi's childhood in post-revolution Iran, her teenage years in exile, and her adult return and subsequent re-exiling. It's an amazing work, biting and honest and deeply self-reflective, which will certainly show you what it feels like to grow up under a theocratic regime. The comparisons to Maus are quite appropriate, not just on the level of producton (two black-and-white volumes, highly stylized, with usually the same number of frames on every page), but also on the level of quality. Really good. I'm teaching it in my Introduction to Narrative course next semester.