Folio Facts: Jennifer delves into the shady world of rare book heists this week, discussing the Carnegie Library heist. To learn more about this incredible story, listen to our episode above, or check out this wonderful article in Smithsonian Magazine.
BBE Bookstore: Jennifer’s extra read for this month was Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge, which is all about – you guess it – the Dutch concept of hygge. While it doesn’t have a direct translation into English, we’ll go with the word ‘cozy’, and essentially Wiking credits the Danish obsession with it as the main reason for their happiness.
Creatives’ Corner: Paige presents a YouTube channel this week, Biographics. This channel creates video biographies about the great and terrible figures from history. Paige likes to put a video on while eating dinner, and considering they make four a week, there is plenty of material for you to consume!
Below is a quote from Khan’s latest interview, read it in full on The Portalist to learn more about how Khan sees writing as an outlet for exploring human rights. Unsurprising given her background in human rights law.
Also, Khan’s last installment of the Khorasan Archives series is coming out like…now! Actually it comes out October 6th, but you can check it out in our affiliate shop.
Coming up next time is our first spooky season pick: Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. Tune in October 12th for magic, murder, and mayhem. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review or following us on social media (links above). If you’d like to support the podcast, you can buy books mentioned in this episode from our Bookshop store, or head on over to our Patreon for bonus content. Until next time, cheers!
Folio Facts: You may have heard of the Library of Alexandria, tragically lost in a fire. But have you heard of the sacking of the Library of Baghdad? Called Bayt al-Hikma, or the House of Wisdom, this enormous repository was the hub of caliph-sponsored scholarship in the Abbasid caliphate. Unfortunately this treasure was lost when the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258.
Dragon Teeth is the posthumous Michael Crichton book about fossil hunters and rival paleontologists Jennifer was referring to in the episode.
BBE Bookstore: This episode, Paige rants and raves over Tamsyn Muir’s hit debut novel, Gideon the Ninth and its sequel, Harrow the Ninth. Paige devoured these in a few short days, so you could say that she recommends them. Beware, strong language and bone necromancy lie ahead.
*links are affiliate links, we receive a small percentage of the sale*
Jennifer mentioned horseshoe crab blood but couldn’t remember why it is important to medical research. Hint: it is very important. The Atlantic has a great article on its historic use and attempts to transition towards synthetic versions, and horseshoe crab blood has become especially relevant in the current coronavirus pandemic. If and when a vaccine is developed, we will likely have these ancient creatures to thank for it.
Creatives’ Corner: This episode, Jennifer presents Samosas & Sirens, an awesome bookish Instagram account that has convinced Jennifer to read many of the non-podcast related reads she has completed this year. S & S was one of the first accounts we followed and they continue to create amazing content.
Main Points from the Episode
According to Ian Malcolm, discovery is the rape of the natural world. Do you agree? Discussion was a mixed bag. Paige and Jennifer agree that many forms of scientific discovery have unintended and disastrous consequences on the natural world. We also agree that often scientific research can be competitive and motivated by greed, or a desire for fame, rather than purely altruistic desires. However, the statement Malcolm makes in the book is extremely black and white and we can’t quite get behind it.
Have we learned the lessons from Jurassic Park? Namely that humankind does not exercise enough caution in scientific discovery? First, it was impossible to not talk about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in this question, where examples of careless research abound. While scientific progress is important, Paige and Jennifer agreed that humans tend to underestimate the possible consequences of scientific research. One big example from our past would be atomic power, which was immediately used to create weapons. But on the other hand you have particle accelerators. People argued CERN shouldn’t be built because it might create a black hole, but would we rather have not built the CERN accelerator due to that astronomically small chance?
Aaaaand even though this isn’t a bonus Movie Magic episode…let’s talk about the movie! Basically we fangirl over Ellie Sattler, complain about how annoying Lex’s character is, and talk about great quotes from the movie. We also chat about the evolution of the relationship between Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler from book to early production to final cut. Some of the scenes we discuss are below!
Coming up next time, Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review or following us on social media. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can buy any of the books mentioned in this episode from our Bookshop store, or head on over to our Patreon for bonus content. Until next time, cheers!
We mention the 1905 Revolution in this episode, a hugely important event in Russian history and Jennifer is eternally ashamed that she couldn’t remember what it was about.
Creatives’ Corner: Paige plugs YouTube channel Overly Sarcastic Productions. Co-hosts Red and Blue make educational videos about mythology, literature, history, etc. Recommended for any nerd who appreciates a healthy dose of sarcasm.
Main Points from the Episode
Why did Jennifer hate Anna Karenina? Well, she didn’t actually hate it, per se. Having read it a while ago, her impression of the book overall is fuzzy. However, here are the things she does remember: Levin and Kitty are adorable and the ending was a shocking twist. Rather than hating the book, teenage Jennifer found that the middle portions just really dragged, especially the portions where Tolstoy starts philosophizing. Sorry, she was uncultured back then and there’s no telling what she would think of it now!
What do we think about the latest movie adaptation of Anna Karenina? This is where BBE turns into a house divided. The most recent movie adaptation came out in 2012. Directed by Joe Wright and starring Kiera Knightley and Jude Law, this movie seemed destined for success. Visually, this film is stunning. The unique interpretation of the Russian nobility as being actors on a theater stage also lends itself to beautiful and fanciful sets. Critically, the movie was pretty middle of the road.
Jennifer loves this movie because of these visual elements and the whimsical feel that the film often takes, but this is the very reason why Paige hates it, lacking that same emotionally tortured punch that the novel does.
Does Tolstoy intend Anna to be a sympathetic character? There are a lot of things to factor into this equation. On the one hand, Anna is not always a likable character, and her self-sabotaging can set your teeth on edge. On the other hand, Anna’s isolation and helplessness in the face of a deeply patriarchal society can be simultaneously rage-inducing and heart-breaking for a modern reader. While Anna might be sympathetic to a modern audience, it is not at all clear that she was intended to be read that way (especially considering Tolstoy’s radical religious views towards the end if his life) or if a contemporary audience would have viewed her as one.
Pictured above: shots from the movie Anna Karenina (2012).
Coming up next is the thrilling sci-fi blockbuster, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review, and to keep up with all the BBE news, follow us on social media. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, head on over to our Bookshop store, or visit our Patreon. Until next time!
This week, Jennifer presented her first Books We Love pick: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. This book is actually one of the books Jennifer has loved the longest. She first picked up this little number around the age of ten and loved it immediately. However, it has been a few years since she last cracked it open, and the distance has complicated her opinion of the book.
A fun coincidence this episode, Paige also loved The Count of Monte Cristo when she was younger. A sucker for some fictional vigilante justice, what Paige appreciated so much is that Dumas pulls no punches in serving his antagonists their comeuppance. In the real world, not everyone who is bad gets what they deserve – often, it seems like the exact opposite happens. However, Dumas was relentless in his pursuit of literary justice.
Wrapped in exquisite historical detail, Dumas presents the reader with questions that can still resonate with them today. What is the efficacy of the legal system? What role does divine Providence play, if any, in the pursuit of justice? And does any one individual deserve to take justice into their own hands?
Quick Links from the Episode
Jennifer was super excited to share some piping hot tea from last episode! She stumbled upon a very detailed web page debunking large portions of Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep.
In addition to The Count of Monte Cristo, Jennifer relies heavily on information from Tom Reiss’ Pulitzer-prize winning work, The Black Count (this is an affiliate link from our Bookshop store, we do get a small percentage of this sale). To learn more about Reiss’ work, visit his website.
As mentioned in The Black Count, there is an Alexandre Dumas society devoted to the memory all three illustrious men of this name. If you are interested in learning more about the society or possibly even joining, check out their website.
Here is the Goodreads thread on whether or not Eugenie Danglars is a LGBTQ character. Not everyone agrees, but a lot of interesting points are brought up, which led Jennifer to conclude that she does believe Eugenie is gay.
This episode, BBE Bookstore featured Martha Well’s novella, All Systems Red. Linked is a copy available through our Bookshop store (affiliate link).
The story of the Dumas family is a fascinating one that until very recently seems to have been relatively swept under the rug. Alexandre Dumas’ father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a hero of the French Revolution and born a slave and a son of a French Marquis besides. Having lost his father early on, Alexandre Dumas spent much of his life devoted to restoring his father’s memory and drawing inspiration from his father’s life for his novels – including our topic of today, The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre’s son would also become a famous playwright. To learn more about the Dumas, check out the Quick Links above.
Some things that Jennifer loved about The Count of Monte Cristo: this time around: the intricacy of the Count’s revenge, the cleverness of Dumas’ protagonist in targeting the individual weaknesses of his enemies, the amazing historical detail of events like Carnival in Rome, and the awesome, badass feminist character that is Eugenie Danglars (seriously, what an interesting character to encounter in a 19th century work).
One thing that Jennifer really did not like: the extremely problematic relationship between Haydee and the Count. The power dynamic of master and slave, the clear emotional trauma Haydee has suffered from a traumatic childhood, and her ensuing ‘daddy issues’…like that is a whole ton of yikes.
Inspired by the Count’s mentor, Abbe Faria, BBE spends a little it of time discussing other great mentor characters, including Dumbledore, Yoda, and Gandalf (of course).
The main portion of the discussion was devoted to questions surrounding justice – unsurprisingly one of the main themes in a book about revenge. Should man act as an agent of divine justice or Providence, outside of human law? What is Dumas’ stance on the matter? Does the Count deserve a happy ending after what was done to him, but also after what he did in return? Dumas leaves his reader somewhat in suspense.
And that is a wrap on The Count of Monte Cristo! Jennifer gives it a solid 5 out of 5 stars – surprise, surprise! We hope you feel inspired to read not just The Count, but any of Dumas’ other amazing works.
Coming up next: our first Bonus Movie Magic episode of the season! This month we will be comparing the book and movie adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review, and to keep up with all the BBE news, follow us on social media. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, head on over to our Bookshop store, or visit our Patreon (linked below). Until next time!