Thursday, December 29, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The outlines of President Obama's life are well-known: his white mother from Kansas and his black father from Kenya met in college in Hawai'i, married, and had him. Soon after, his father left, first to go to Harvard, then back to Africa, and only returned for a month when Barack Jr was 10. Barack Sr. died without his son having gotten to know him as an adult.
Dreams from My Father can be read on two primary levels: one is simply as a man's life story. Obama's young life was somewhat unusual - growing up in Hawai'i and Indonesia, time as a community organizer in Chicago, family in Kenya - but not, I think, so extraordinary as to be incomprehensible. (It's not like he grew up on Mars, after all.)
The other way one can read this book is as a meditation on race in America. Obama explores what was like to grow up as a black man, even though his white mother and grandparents raised him. Along the way, he discusses how race effects the way a person is viewed in this country and what it means to straddle different cultures, not just brown vs. white, but African vs. American.
I found Dreams from My Father to be an interested, thought-provoking read. Would it be as interesting if you didn't know this young man would grow up to be President? I believe so.
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I will say that I had heard Gladwell interviewed about this book several times, so some of it didn't feel fresh to me. For example, I had heard quite a bit about the part of the book dedicated to exploring why almost no star hockey players are born in the fall. Still, I thought it was interest and it certainly confirmed my thought that the birthday cutoff for kindergarten should be moved up from the typical December deadline (something our local school system has started doing for budget reasons).
Some readers might complain that Gladwell is oversimplifying complex social issues. They may be right. But I found this to be a fascinating look at a complicated question.
Outliers: The Story of Success was released in paperback today (June 7).
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I was surprised by how much I loved the last book in the series, Rilla of Ingleside. This book focuses not on Anne, but onto Anne's youngest daughter Rilla. It takes place during World War I and has a more serious tone than the early books. Maybe this is just me, but I know so little about WWI that I had to look up many of the references in this book - this could have been annoying, but I enjoyed getting the history lesson. (Per Wikipedia, Rilla of Ingleside is "the only Canadian novel written from a women's perspective about the First World War by a contemporary.")
There's something else that I realized for the first time on this go-round through these books: the chronological order is not the same as the published order. For example, Rilla of Ingleside was published sixth, but is the last/eighth book chronologically. Normally I am a firm believer in reading books in publication order (see Chronicles of Narnia, etc) but I liked reading these chronologically. It was like getting to watch kids grow up. There were some odd moments by reading them this way. For example, the love letters between Anne and her beau (my lame attempt to not spoil something that everyone in the world knows anyway) were published in the (mostly-epistolary) Anne of Windy Poplars. Chronologically, this book is fourth in the series, but it was the seventh book published. Those love letters are referenced in Anne's House of Dreams (book 5) in such a way, I think, to make them sound private, which was weird since I had just read them. But that is a pretty minor point. What do you think? Should you read these books in published or chronological order?
Find books by L.M. Montgomery on Project Gutenberg or Amazon.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Buy My Man Jeeves on Amazon or download free at Project Gutenberg.
*Edited for bad writing!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I read this book for my book club and we had an interesting discussion about it. One of the women in my group had experiences that were very similar to the book's main characters - MIT, Berkeley, worked at a start-up, and so on. She said that at first, she liked that someone had written a book about these experiences, but as the book went on, it was all just a little off - just not quite right about what that time and places were like.
I didn't really love The Cookbook Collector in totality - it tried to do a lot with its big cast and broad scope and just ended up being spotty. But there were pieces - little moments, like someone eating a peach - that I did love. It was a worthwhile book, though not one I'd call a classic.
The paperback will be released on July 12, 2011. Pre-order The Cookbook Collector: A Novel or buy The Cookbook Collector: A Novel on Amazon now.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
There's actually a lot in common between this book, which I enjoyed, and The Secret Garden, which I did not (link goes to my recent review). I don't know what the difference was. For example, where I found Colin in The Secret Garden to be insufferable, I thought Klara was quite sweet. This is definitely a kids' book - I don't expect to see it suddenly become hot beach reading - but I thought it was charming to read again. Buy Heidi on Amazon or download free at Project Gutenberg.
Orphaned at an early age, Heidi is sent to live with her curmudgeon of a grandfather high in the Swiss Alps. But Heidi soon finds that things are not always what others say they are, makes friends with her grandfather, and happily runs wild in the glorious mountains with the goat boy, Peter, and his goats.
Suddenly her aunt returns, and Heidi finds herself confined in the city to be companion to the invalid Klara. But Heidi is bitterly unhappy away from her grandfather and the outdoor life she has grown to love.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'But after that great start, this book felt very scattered, like a series of unconnected essays rather than a coherent thought. It was easy to read just a little bit then put down - unfortunately, it was just as easy to forget to pick up again. As I said, I loved the story behind the title, but the rest of the book didn't live up to that promise.
Buy Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life on Amazon.
My apologies to those of you who accidentally saw this in your feed reader last week - I had some bumps in trying to get it to publish correctly!
Friday, April 1, 2011
Thursday, March 31, 2011
For those of you who haven't read it, or read it so long ago you can't remember it: Contrary little Mary is sent to live with a relative on the Yorkshire Moors after her parents and household die in India. The spoiled girl has never even dressed herself and is quite friendless. But with the help of two boys, a gardener, and an abandoned garden, she becomes a new person.
Clearly, I have become a jaded, terrible person, one who can't even enjoy such a magical story. I felt terrible for Mary and was happy about her transformation - but found angelic Dickon to be annoying and Colin to be insufferable. That said, I loved this book when I was a girl so hopefully someday, if I read this to my little M, I'll be able to enjoy it through her again. Until then, I think I'm too old to enjoy this one.
Buy The Secret Garden on Amazon. Or do what I did, and download it free via Project Gutenberg.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I have a feeling I posted this link last year, when they announced who won the Pritzker, but I think it bears repeating:
Architecture Is a Team Sport: So why do they award the Pritzker Prize to just one person?
Monday, March 28, 2011
Jo Larouche, age 13, was found as a baby with this note: This is Jo. Please take care of her. But beware. This is a dangerous baby. Despite the warning, Jo leads as normal a life as possible with her eccentric Aunt Lily- until she's transported to the bizarre world of Eldritch City. There, now installed as a member of the Order of Odd-Fish, Jo learns the truth about who she is and why she has to confront the Belgian Prankster, who is either a villain or the world's scariest comedian.
When my sister gave me the book, I didn't know what to think, actually. The cover was cute but strange, the title was definitely offbeat and the first chapters decidedly weird. It was, no doubt, an odd book. But as I kept reading, I found myself pulled in, really wanting to find out who Jo is and how she will handle the truly awful circumstances thrust on her. Despite the bizarre trappings of the story, at the heart there is a sweet girl making difficult decisions in an unfamiliar context. I rather enjoyed it.
Buy The Order of Odd-Fish on Amazon.