Report from Louisiana: The 2019 Reading Challenge

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I caved to peer pressure in January and took the Goodreads Book Challenge; I vowed to read 100 books in 2019.

I have fallen short.

Right now I’m at 54 books.

I think Goodreads should amend this challenge from books to pages. A lot of the books I read were long books. Some of the people on my “friends” list at Goodreads vowed to read 100 books, but upon closer examination, many of those were children’s books.

I failed to think of that.

I could cheat, and go back, edit my stated goal. But, that hardly seems fair.  And 54 books isn’t a bad total, really.

After all, it’s not really about how much you read, is it? 

I’ve read some really thought provoking books this year, and I’ve read some fluff. I’ve almost read my way through the entire Tana French oeuvre, as well as a large body of non-fiction.  French’s The Witch Elm was excellent.

Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s The Institute, and it’s not exactly a small book. After reading Elevation, I swore I’d never read another book by Stephen King, but I changed my mind. The verdict is still out on The Institute, but so far I’m still with it.

I guess my favorite book that I read this year was The Sound of Building Coffins by Louis Maistros. It’s not for everyone, but I loved it. So unusual.

Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House was an excellent book.

Early in the year I read all of the books by Rebecca Wells, I had never read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood before now. She was the featured author at the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival this year and I wanted to read her work before meeting her.  In 2020, the featured author at this festival will be Osha Gray Davidson who wrote The Best of Enemies about race and redemption in the South. That book is standing by in my “to be read” stack.

And while I have not resorted to picture books to meet my 100 book pledge, I did read a fair bit of YA books, but since I count that as research for my classroom library I figure that is ok. Some of them were pretty good and some not so much.

In the non-fiction realm, I read Ethan Brown’s Murder in the Bayou about the eight women in Jennings, Louisiana, who were murdered. The book offered a ton, literally a ton, of more information than the mini-series, and made things a lot more clear. It was a good read.

I also read that Marie Kondo book that advises you to throw all your stuff away and wish I hadn’t. I didn’t throw one single thing away, for the record, that I wouldn’t have whether I’d read her book or not.  Thankful for that.

Ernest Gaines died a couple of weeks ago and that broke my heart. He was such a great writer and a true gentleman. I’m reading his short stories in Bloodline now. (Yes, I’m reading more than one book at a time.)  His book, A Lesson Before Dying made me ugly cry when I read it last year – such a great book.

Like most readers, my stack of books “to be read” is staggering and I’m not sure I will live long enough to read all of them. I might have a book buying disorder.

As for the book challenge, I have no idea why I did such a thing. It’s not like me at all.  Peer pressure is a powerful thing and looking back at the books I’ve read this year is humbling. Did I measure up?  (To what?!)  I probably won’t do the challenge again next year. Why am I on Goodreads in the first place? Who is tracking what I read and why?

It can make you a little paranoid.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

An immigration crackdown in Greece

By Christopher Harper

Having spent the past few days roaming around Greece, I find it amazing that the U.S. press hasn’t picked up on the crackdown on immigrants.

The Greek government has adopted a policy to “shut the door” on migrants not entitled to stay — a hardening of its stance amid a new surge in arrivals.

That would be from a country that often tilts toward the left side of the political spectrum.

Simply put, recent elections tossed out the old leader as citizens got tired of the immigration crisis in the country.

“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament. “Those who are not welcome will be returned. We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter even though they are not entitled to asylum.”

Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16.

In speaking with some local residents, citizens are unhappy that the refugees often have no desire to participate in the country’s social life, including keeping their children out of school. Few are trying to learn Greek.

“Greece has its strengths, but it is not an unfenced vineyard,” Mitsotakis said recently, using a Greek expression meaning the country is not open to anyone. “Those days are gone.”

Moreover, Mitsotakis’ government said it wants to move up to 20,000 asylum seekers out of sprawling island camps and onto the mainland by the end of the year and expects that new facilities will be ready by July 2020.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has raised concerns over the new centers, arguing that the new facilities would amount to detention centers. Human rights groups have also criticized a new framework for speeding up the processing of asylum requests as a “rushed” attempt that would impede access to a fair asylum process for refugees.

Separately, officials in neighboring North Macedonia said a police patrol detained a group of 33 migrants found walking through the southern part of the country, near its border with Greece. Police said the group consisted of 21 Afghan nationals, seven Pakistanis, three Iraqis, and two Iranians.

Although the Balkan route followed by migrants trying to reach Europe’s prosperous heartland has been closed since 2016, thousands still use it. They usually pay large sums to smuggling gangs to illegally get them through the closed borders.

Sound familiar?

Trump Did as much to earn Impeachment as Obama Did to Earn the Nobel

While the Washington Post’s assessment of Barack Obama as a conservative is nonsense there is in fact one thing he and Donald Trump had in common.

Both were, as Byron York reported, judged before they did a thing.

York Oct 2009:

This morning on MSNBC, presidential adviser David Axelrod was at pains to explain how his boss could possibly deserve this prize. “I think it’s an affirmation by the Nobel committee that the things he’s been working on and talking about around the world are important for humanity.”

Incredibly, “just words” appear to have been good enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Byron York Nov 2019

It’s worth noting that the deadline for being nominated for the Nobel was twelve days into Obama’s presidency so unless he was nominated before he took office it took 11 days less for Donald Trump to be considered worth of impeachment in office then it took Barack Obama to be considered worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize

or to put it another way:

Barack Obama Won the Nobel for not being George W Bush

Donald Trump was targeted for impeachment for not being Hillary Clinton.

That’s what it comes down to.