Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recent Reads

Is it just me, or have I not posted about my reading material in a LONG time?  Been a bit busy!  And yet I've read a surprising number of beefy books.  (Remember how devastated I was to leave Ogden just as the Wendy and Sam Book Club was getting started?  While I still think it's a shame that Wendy had to stay behind, I have been blessed with a new book club here: The Boring Book Club for People Who Like to Write Essays, or BBC for short.) Huzzah! 

Half of the Sky, by Kristof and WuDunn
5/5 It's hard to think about the many tragedies that are commonplace in some parts of the world (and sometimes closer to home), but this book is a worthy read.  I especially appreciated that the authors discuss solutions and organizations that are making a difference.

Utopia, by St. Sir Thomas Moore
4/5 It was surprisingly interesting to read this blast from roughly five hundred years past.  I think the thing that got me the most was how many of the questions we struggle with today in attempting to improve our societies are the same as the questions people struggled with back then.  The details of our reality have changed a lot, but it seems we still haven't answered some really fundamental questions. 

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
4/5 Oh man.  Where to begin with her?  I LOVE the way she celebrates individuality and integrity and straight up hard work.  I LOATHE her representation of women, her ridiculously unreal dialogue, and her total disregard for charity.  That being said, it was an interesting read and I'm glad I gave it the time.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua
2/5  Grrr.  She has so many great points to make (like how people develop real self esteem through accomplishment not compliments, or how it's essential that we believe our children are capable of amazing things).  I found myself agreeing with Chua's philosophy most of the time.  And then I was immediately horrified by her implementation of said philosophy.  Example: Threatening to burn all of her child's toys and then throwing the girl out onto the porch in freezing weather because she doesn't play a piano piece perfectly after three hours of practice in one day (did I mention that her daughter was only 3?).  Is there a way to be demanding but not abusive?  Anyone? 

Freedom Summer, by Bruce Watson
3/5 I studied the civil rights movement pretty extensively in college (thank you, history minor), but this was a good refresher course on the summer of 1964 in Mississippi.  I did find the author to be annoyingly dramatic, but it's a pretty decent read. 

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie
4/5 My knowledge of Russian history from Czar Nicholas II on is pretty good (thank you, Russian novels course), but I previously knew nothing from before that time.  I thus really enjoyed this biography as it was also a primer for Enlightenment European politics, Russian serfdom, and the roots of the contemporary Ukraine/Russia debacle.  It was also a pretty juicy gossip fest of the strictures of courtesan life, the royal bed, and an Emperor who played with toy soldiers as a grown man.  Scintillating stuff, I assure you.

Matched, Crossed, and Reached, by Ally Condie
3/5  I'm never really going to hop on the old dystopian YA train, but this was a fair series as the genre goes and it was interesting to read it in the context of seeking to understand the wider genre's current appeal.  Decent brain candy.

These is my Words, Nancy Turner
5/5  This is a great little book.  A "journal" of a woman's life in the Arizona Territory during Geronimo's stand, there are very few dull pages, a good deal of poignant ones, and a sweet little romance. I would definitely recommend this for a recreational read. 

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
1/5  I really shouldn't read teen fiction.  Especially not beloved teen fiction.  It's not written for me and so it's no surprise that I don't love it and then all I've done is puked on something someone else loves.  So it is again.  Sorry.  But please tell me that we all knew how this ended.  We did, right?  Frankly, I didn't find the journey to that destination all that insightful or enjoyable.  If you like sad, predictable books, bon appetite.