Hi there

I am Eva Seiler* and I read books** and I made this blog to have an outlet for my book-loving self.

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*ha ha, not really

**really really.

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Audiobooks

I didn’t used to like audiobooks at all. But in the past couple of years, I have gotten really hooked on them. I have two children and I teach them and I cook a lot of food and am just constantly very busy, and audiobooks have been a wonderful way to get my reading fix and also be productive in other ways. It helps motivate me through hated tasks (like washing the millions of dishes I generate).

Audiobooks are a totally legitimate form of reading, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. For the blind or visually impaired, for example, you either have to know Braille or be read to. Braille books are a big and expensive investment, whereas audiobooks are readily available from libraries for free.

If audio is an option, I will always pick audio these days over a physical book. It is so freeing. If I’m taking a long car trip, I’ll pick out books on CD from the library; generally speaking, though, I prefer a digital download over CD, because CDs are only convenient in my car and not so much in the house. Ask your library if they have electronic checkouts via Overdrive or a similar format. Mine uses Overdrive. It’s easy to download the app and add books to it. It saves your place, too, even if you have to return a book unfinished and re-check it out. My mom, on the other hand, prefers CDs because she spends so much time in her car for work, and the digital downloads aren’t convenient for her.

Audible can get pricey, although I have ten books from them. (For some reason I got multiple free downloads. I don’t know how that happened, but who’s complaining? And I also got in on some good deals for the others.) I do really like the Audible app, though. It is excellent, and if you have any Audible books at all, I highly recommend the app.

Another favourite resource of mine is Audiobooksync. (@audiobookSYNC on Twitter) It’s a summer reading program geared towards young people, with two new audiobooks to download for free each week over the summer. Not all of them are of interest to me, but I’ve gotten quite a few that way. You can look at the lists from past years to get an idea of what types of books they offer. There’s quite a variety. You will need to have the Overdrive app on your computer to download these, and then you can transfer them to your device or burn to a CD. (I assume it is possible to download them via Overdrive on a phone or tablet, but I haven’t tried that personally, so don’t quote me on that.) Here are some of the ones I downloaded this year:

 

And, of course, there’s LibriVox! (@librivox on Twitter) There are, as of today, 11,201 books to choose from, with many new ones catalogued each month. They are all free, public-domain works (at this point, that means pre-1923), and read by volunteers. Sometime I’ll probably do a roundup post of LibriVox listens that I’ve particularly enjoyed. The quality is mixed – volunteers, not professionals, remember! – but for the most part all the readers I’ve listened to have been pretty decent, and some are truly outstanding. Yes, I’m definitely going to be doing a dedicated LibriVox post soon.

Tell me your favourite place to download audiobooks, your favourite audiobook(s)/narrator(s), or whether you prefer CDs or digital downloads! Or just tell me anything you want to say about audiobooks!

–Eva

Really Long Old Book Titles #2

MATTHEW HENRY’S

COMMENTARY

ON THE WHOLE BIBLE

Wherein each chapter is summed up in its contents: the sacred text

inserted at large in distinct paragraphs; each paragraph

reduced to its proper heads: the sense given,

and largely illustrated

with

PRACTICAL REMARKS AND OBSERVATIONS

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The Boys in the Boat, in Which Eva Is a Sentimental Moron and Spams You With Lots of Pictures

I had an unusual upbringing. Sports were of so little importance to my family that I, at 34, still do not know even the most rudimentary rules to any sportsball games (and don’t bother trying to educate me, because I flatly DO NOT CARE). Nor did I do any track and field stuff.

But when I was growing up, the artier sports were intriguing to me. I read a lot about skaters and ballerinas and equestrians and gymnasts, even though I have never done any of those things at any point in my life either.

The Olympic Games were also not a big part of my growing up years (we had no TV or movies in our house from the time I was 7 to about 18), but my mom became quite the film buff/amateur film historian after that, and I went along for the ride. It was a lot of fun. Along the way my mom, also a WWII buff, started watching Leni Riefenstahl films. It was a very interesting side trip. We watched Triumph of the Will as well as several of her earlier “mountain pictures”, but it was (and for me still is) Olympia that fascinated us most. We watched it a number of times. There is something so majestic about it, so perfectly crafted as it is to make you feel as though you are being lifted up above the common world, or at the very least it will make your heart thrill and your eyes fill with tears. (If you are interested, there is a low-res version uploaded on YouTube, or you can buy it on Amazon and enjoy it in its full glory.)

Anyway, one of my friends, Ruth, recommended The Boys in the Boat some time ago, and I put in a request for it as an audio book on Overdrive and the waiting list was so long I almost forgot about it. Finally it was my turn, and I began to listen.

I repeat, sportsball is so dull to me I would literally rather lick the pavement than watch them. But the context of this particular narrative being Riefenstahl’s Olympics made all the difference.

There is so much talked about in this book. It touches on the effects of the Great Depression on America, the history of rowing, the growth of crew on the West Coast from nothing to stardom, pre-WWII events in Germany as the country prepared to host the Olympics, and also the lives of the rowers themselves, specifically Joe Rantz and his unusual upbringing.

People, I was so strangely moved by this book I felt like I was on the verge of tears many times. I watched clips of the rowing on YouTube and that made it even more emotional for me.

And then this past Sunday I was on the way to Seattle with a friend and a thought popped into my head and I asked her, “HOW FAR IS THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON FROM YOUR PLACE?” and she said “MAYBE 20 MINUTES” and she said “WHY” and I said “THE 1936 CREW SHELL IS HANGING ON DISPLAY IN THE SHELLHOUSE CAN WE GO” and she was all “YAAASSS” so we WENT.

Here’s the photo they have right near the door of the shellhouse. You can see the USA crew crossing the finish line. (They won by SIX-TENTHS OF A SECOND, GUYS.)
Specs on the shell and the names of all the crew members.
Here’s the area where they launch the shells now. Just out of the frame are the boats the coaches follow the shells in.
NerdyEva(tm). The shell is hanging in the cafeteria in the shellhouse. Bet the 1936 crew would have loved such a wonderful shellhouse at their disposal.
In a display case downstairs they have a chunk of real estate set aside for the 1936 Olympic team: photographs and Bobby Moch’s bullhorn.
This was Don Hume’s seat. He set the pace for all the rowers behind him. He was very ill the day of the race, but the crew insisted he, and not a replacement, be the one to go out.
Bobby Moch, the coxswain, faced Hume in this seat.
Another photo of crossing the finish line with the group photo of the crew.
The fine craftsmanship of this shell was obvious even viewed from the floor. The modern shells in the shellhouse today are also Pocock shells (his company continues to make them, but they aren’t out of wood these days) – I didn’t get a picture, but you can see the racks where the modern ones are kept and they are sleek and likely fine work, but they lack the character and beauty this one has. Here’s a page about Pocock cedar shells.
My friend took this photo of me taking a photo of the Husky Clipper.

 

Jim McMillan holding his medal (click image for article)

There is also an American Experience film called The Boys of ’36. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my to-do list. You should read this book, because it is amazing.

–Eva

Prisoner of Night and Fog / Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

I wasn’t sure what book I should start with, but since my brain is a sieve I decided I really ought to do ones I just finished. So here goes!

anne-blankman

I discovered this series by someone mentioning them on Twitter. Or something. (I told you my brain is a sieve.) And because my brain is also diseased, “night and fog” instantly grabbed me because Code Name Verity.

I really enjoyed these, if one can call it enjoyment when I’m a bundle of nervous twitching and anxiously silent-yelling AAARRRRGHHHH at lines like “make Germany great again” or lines about piano wire and ice water and torture. (No, really, I DID enjoy them very much.)

Anne Blankman can tell a story. I really couldn’t put either book down once I got going because I had to find out what would happen. I read each one in about a day.

The main characters, Gretchen and Daniel, are both very likeable, even in the early parts where Gretchen is still devoted to Hitler. Gretchen’s growth as a person over the course of the books is sympathetic and realistic. Gretchen’s brother Reinhard is one of the scariest characters I can think of offhand, and her parents are complicated and sometimes incomprehensible. I also really enjoyed the way the author used a framework of real events (the Beer Hall Putsch and the Reichstag fire) and especially people (Hitler, Eva Braun, Göring, and others) and wove her story and fictional characters in with them.

Oh, and Gretchen has a cat. I’m a cat lover, so I have to mention this.

I think my biggest complaint would be that the descriptions of torture or abuse are just a hair too intense for my taste (or maybe just my ability to cope). I think it’s important to be clear how atrocious the Nazi regime was, lest history repeat itself, but if you’ve experienced abuse or trauma you may want to proceed with caution. It’s not constant, but it is periodically a thing.

Overall, though, highly recommend! I hadn’t been familiar with either the Putsch or the Reichstag fire prior to reading these books, so for me it was a new look at the days leading up to WWII from the German perspective.

-Eva