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Bite-Sized Book Reviews: THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF LOVELACE & BABBAGE, and X: A NOVEL

Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage by Sydney Padua

This book, which comprises approximately 40% comics, 40% footnotes, and 20% straight up notes, copied letters/documents, and illustrated references, begins with a short biography of the lives and works of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, followed by an alternate history series of comics as if they had successfully build the first computer and continued to live long, healthy lives full of adventures and successfully solved mysteries. While the alternate history (named the Pocket Universe) is all in good fun and sort of made-up, many of the events and characters are absolutely grounded in real history, all of which is explained in footnotes and appendices. I've learned more about the era Lovelace and Babbage lived in and other pioneering writers, inventors, mathematicians, and scientists, especially ladies who are so often erased from this history, reading this "(mostly) true story of the first computer" than I ever did in history lessons. Give it a try. Read it slowly. Read all the footnotes. Super clever - appropriate for anyone into history, or computers, or math, or general nerdery.

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Don't be fooled by this book's classification of "novel." Though the authors take some liberties when it comes to the general antics and conversations depicted within, all the events, and most of the people, definitely happened or existed. Its subject is Malcolm X, specifically his adolescence, that turbulent period of his life leading up to his arrest and his years in prison before emerging as a human rights activist. If you've read Malcolm's autobiography then you're already aware of the events of the novel, but it's presented in an entirely different way. X: A Novel gives his story so much life, and incredible intimacy. You spend the entire book in his head - really, it's a powerful read. At the end, Shabazz goes a little bit into some historical background, things or people she left out for brevity, and outlines exactly the few, inconsequential things that are entirely made up. This book is so gripping and so important. Appropriate for high school and above.