Books I read in October 2020

I had seen The Jewish Resistance recommended on Twitter, so I was very pleased to find it on sale for six dollars in Indigo. It is a very accessible read and contains important information. I re-read Le Grand Meaulnes, a French classic. And I continued my project of reading more witchy books with Lid off the Cauldron by Patricia Crowther, followed by Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson. Quite an eclectic mix of topics.

The Jewish Resistance: Uprisings against the Nazis in World War II, by Paul Roland

Very important to witness the Jewish resistance to the Nazis, both because of the bravery of the resistance and because there is a persistent and pernicious myth that the Jews went passively to the slaughter. Far from it. There were tens of thousands of Jewish partisans and there was resistance within the concentration camps and extermination camps. There are many individual and collective stories of brave resistance, even in hopeless situations, in this book. A must-read.

Lid off the Cauldron by Patricia Crowther

The first few chapters are a bit odd, but after a while the book settles down and starts offering some in-depth discussion of the symbolism of the circle and the process of magic. The book was originally published in the 1980s, so it provides a fascinating insight into the earlier decades of Wicca.

Le Grand Meaulnes, by Alain-Fournier (translated by Frank Davison)

This book is an absolute classic of French literature. I first read it when I was about 15 or 16, when it made a huge impact on me. The elegiac quality of the writing and the intensity of the feelings of the teenage protagonists was exactly right. I tried to read it again in my twenties and couldn’t get into it. This time, I read it from the perspective of an adult and it has not lost its magic for me; if anything it is even more haunting and tragic now that I understand what might happen to Valentine, which I didn’t fully get when I was 15/16. My only criticism would be the acquiescence of Yvonne de Galais to what happens.

Shaman, by Kim Stanley Robinson

An amazing reconstruction of the world of the Stone Age, when there were still Neanderthal people around, and huge glaciers covered much of the northern lands. The story starts with Loon, a reluctant shaman, being sent out naked on his wander (sort of a cross between a vision quest and a test of survival), and follows his adventures and those of his tribe for several years after that. It’s fascinating and well researched, based on the available archaeological evidence. (Don’t read it if you’re squeamish about descriptions of animals being killed and butchered for food.) The characters are deftly and well drawn, and the dynamics of the group and how society works are very interesting.

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