Curiosity vs. my delicate sensibilities

I've been tempted by a number of grim-looking books recently. They all seem to be creative and well-written, but there's no denying that they have a strong smell of "reading this book can only lead to misery and regret" to 'em:

Black Hole

Charles Burns' multiple-award-winning graphic novel Black Hole is set in mid-1970s Seattle, in a world where a sexually-transmitted plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers. The disease manifests itself in a variety of physical mutations--everything from minor changes to molting skin or a full-blown tail.

I don't care for Burns's artwork, but his story sounds fascinating. Still, am I up for a story that Publishers Weekly describes as a "nightmare [vision] of a world where intimacy means a life worse than death"?

Charity Girl

According to its publisher, Michael Lowenthal's historical novel Charity Girl "examines one of the darkest periods in our history, when patriotic fervor and fear led to devastating consequences. During World War I, the U.S. government went on a moral and medical campaign, quarantining and incarcerating young women who were thought to have venereal diseases. Most were called "charity girls," or working-class girls who happened to have had relationships with infected men."

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? But I keep hearing it's brilliant...

Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam

Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl is the author of the 2002 book Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, an exploration of the ways successful armies adapt during conflicts for which they are initially unprepared. (The book is based on his doctoral dissertation from Oxford.) Nagl's book "compares the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and practice in the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 with what developed in the Vietnam War from 1950 to 1975".

Nagl helped develop the field manual the U.S. Army is currently using to combat insurgency in Iraq, and is credited with several of the reforms that have actually worked during the recent "Surge" (moving off large bases to live amongst the population, making the protection of civilians the military's top priority, etc.). By all accounts, he seems to be an incredibly intelligent and talented officer*, and I'm curious to read the book that's causing such a stir.

*Unfortunately, it was reported yesterday that he's leaving the army.
Posted by: Julianka


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