The Vault of the Heavens Taught by James B. Kaler (Portable Professor series)

Not one of the better offerings in the Portable Professor series. While quite informative, it was full of way too many instances that required visuals. Professor Kaler repeatedly described objects as “about this big” or as moving “like this”. I believe that taking a class from him in person would be fascinating and very enjoyable, but this did not translate well in the audio format.

Astronomy For Beginners

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Cover of "Persepolis"


I might have gone into this book with too-high expectations. Persepolis has won numerous awards, as has the film adaptation. That being said, I felt a little let down after reading it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good story and an intriguing look behind the scenes of the Islamic Revolution in Iran as well as general Iranian culture. But Marji herself does not come across as a very sympathetic figure. I loved her ten year-old self in the beginning of the book, but by the middle, she had lost most of what made her so adorable and strong. I will grant that most of us go through the same thing during adolescence, but the fall did seem much more precipitous for Satrapi. Is she redeemed in the end? I won’t say here, but would love to hear other’s thoughts on the subject.

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan


Cover of "Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmann...

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned


While there are plenty of stories revolving around the idea of being the last survivor or group of survivors of some cataclysmic event, Brian K. Vaughan‘s story is a little different. What if you weren’t the last human, but the last MAN? In this first volume of the series, Yorick Brown finds himself in just such a predicament (along with the only other known male survivor of any species, his pet monkey Ampersand).


This first volume sets up the series and the immediate aftermath of the death of all the males. There are a LOT of angry women. Some Republican Senatorial widows attempt to storm the White House in an attempt to take over their husbands’ now vacant seats. The Amazons are reborn. And there is a supermodel/actress driving a garbage truck. Somehow through it all, Yorick, whose mother just now happens to be POTUS, cares only about finding his girlfriend…


An intriguing beginning to the series. Am interested to see where it leads…


The Dirty Parts of the Bible by Sam Torode

This was a really fun read. It has drawn a lot of comparisons to Water for Elephants but I think that’s an insult to Sam Torode. I can only imagine the reason is that The Dirty Parts of the Bible is also set during the Great Depression, that parts of it also happen on a train, and the story is set in motion by an automobile accident involving the protagonist’s father. The similarities end there, however.

First of all, Tobias Henry is a much more likable fellow than Jacob Jankowski on almost every front. For all that he is almost as helpless as Jankowski, Tobias at least realizes as much. And when push comes to shove (and in all fairness to JJ, it does take a few pushes and shoves to get him moving) Tobias does at least take control of his own fate.

Secondly, it’s just a much better story. The characters and events are all more believable.

The story was an enjoyable one with real humor and just a touch of pathos. If I had to nitpick anything, it would be with the character of Craw. I don’t think that his role in the book was all that realistic for the time and place. While certain elements were plausible, others were just a little far-fetched, more so even than the ‘fantasy’ elements of the story. But that’s a rather small nit in an overwhelmingly good book.

Superheroes: The Best of Philosophy and Pop Culture, William Irwin (ed.)

Logos for Marvel Comics and DC Comics, two of ...

Building on a growing trend of “Philosophy and…” books that run the gamut of pop cultures, Superheroes is a great way to introduce people to philosophy, especially those who might not be otherwise inclined. A series of essays, the work covers both the Marvel and DC universes as well as philosophers from Plato through to Derek Parfit (b. 1942). It would be easy to dismiss this series as nothing more than philosophical fluff dumbed-down for the masses, but I think one would be missing something to do so. As William Irwin states in the Introduction, “Ultimately, this book aims to shed light on the hidden depth of superheroes, while at the same time illustrate the importance of philosophy. Superman and Batman are not replacements for Plato and Aristotle, but they can inspire you to read Plato and Aristotle, who will challenge you to think deeply.” And after all, isn’t that what we ask of any good book?