Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wild

My book club chose Wild by Cheryl Strayed as a recent read. While I'd heard plenty about it and usually enjoy outdoor adventure stories, I hadn't been interested enough in it to want to read it.

But, I found it on my library's ebook selection so I checked it out.

The first bit was kinda painful. Strayed spends a great deal of time talking about what led her to take off on her crazy journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. She fell apart when her mother died and started making really bad decisions: cheating on her husband, doing heroin, etc. With her divorce finalized and the rest of her life in shambles, she heads off to hike the PCT for months.

When she started, she hardly had any business being on the trail. She was ill prepared and had a very tough time. As she continued on her trip, she learned from other hikers and became fairly adept at backpacking. She met friends along the way and sorted out her emotional issues.

I ended up liking the book more by the end. However, if it was not a book club read, I wouldn't have picked it up in the first place, nor would I have finished it. I'm glad I finished it, but if I'd been reading it on my own I wouldn't have made it. I just couldn't empathize with her in the beginning. I didn't want to read about someone whose life had gotten so awful in part because of her really poor life choices.

Obviously Strayed has moved on from her low points and there's redemption in that. As an adventure story, it isn't as exciting as I was hoping. There's lots of other books about being outdoors that are much more upbeat. If you are looking for one, Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods is great. It's humorous so it's coming from a different place, but covers the same ground about a clueless hiker.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hello? Is this thing on?

About 2.5 years ago, I got pregnant and blogging fell by the wayside.

Hopefully I'm back!

I am now my library's Young Adult Specialist and in charge of YA collection development and teen programming. I've always enjoyed YA books, but have really picked up the pace of reading the genre.

With plenty of reading (54 book in 2015 already) I should have plenty to talk about!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Character of Cats

Book summary: Your cat doesn't give a shit.

The Character of Cats was a quick, but interesting read. Evan and I have a cat. He grew up with cats and wanted to get one. I was skeptical. One day I was looking at pets on our local shelter's website and saw Penny. She was SO cute, and her write-up said that she was litter box trained and did well with dogs. If we were going to get one, she sounded ok.

So, she came to live with us and I just adore her. I didn't realize how much I'd love a cat. I grew up with dogs. Penny is a whole different creature than the dogs I was familiar with and The Character of Cats highlighted all those differences.

If you appreciate cats, I think you'll enjoy The Character of Cats.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

America, You Sexy Bitch


I really loved Dirty Sexy Politics and adore Meghan McCain despite our different beliefs, but was a bit disappointed by this. I'm still glad I read it. I enjoyed McCain and Michael Ian Black. 




America, Your Sexy Bitch is told in alternating chapters by McCain and Black, getting their different perspectives on issues they encounter on a road trip. Black provides the liberal commentary, while McCain represents the conservative side. 

The thing I found disappointing about this was the lack of a clear point to the story. The two were on a road trip to show and discuss the difference in liberals and conservatives, but it just seemed all over the place.  The two found many things they agreed on, which I think was what the book was trying to say: that despite our beliefs we really do have a lot in common.

 I never really got into the story and got a little sick of McCain's drinking stories. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some of It Was Fun

In my political science classes, I show an episode of the civil rights miniseries Eyes on the Prize about integration of Central HS in Little Rock, AR and Ole Miss. It's a fascinating documentary with many people who experienced these events first hand. One of the people interview is Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, author of Some of It Was Fun: Working with RFK and LBJ.

Katzenbach died last year and his obituary in the New York Times mentioned that he had written a memoir of his years in the Justice Department. I ordered it right away. Katzenbach was a major player in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and was there for so many of the key events, including integration of Ole Miss, standing toe to toe with Alabama Governor George Wallace (the scene was in Forrest Gump), and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

Some of It Was Fun offered great insight on the changes that took place in soicety and in government during the turbulent years of the 60s. I thought Katzenbach was a really stand up kind of guy who  really moved progress along. I even thought the title of his book was something that showed off his personality. Obvisouly, as US Attorney General, he was very important in the political realm, but the title, to me at least, makes it seem like he didn't take himself too seriously.

I really enjoyed Some of It Was Fun and I really admire Katzenbach.



Friday, January 18, 2013

Origins

Being pregnant, I've read several parenting/baby books. These mostly haven't been how-to books, but rather issues related to pregnancy or parenting.

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives by Annie Murphy Paul is one such book. There is, of course, a long list of things that I should or shouldn't be doing since I'm pregnant. Paul focuses on how fetuses are impacted by what the mother does or what occrus to her while she is pregnant.

In some ways, this book made me panic. Am I eating the best foods possible? No, but I feel like I'm doing pretty good. Should I be exercising more? Yes. Should I stop eating off plastics? Etc, etc, etc.

One of the sections I found most interesting was on stress. As someone who fights anxiety and depression, this has been an issue I've thought about a lot. Unfortunately, though somewhat understandably, not a lot of research has been done on medicines that mothers take. Once I found out I was pregnant, that was one of the most immediate questions: What to do about my medicine. As my doctor said, stress is not good for mama or baby and Paul's research certainly bears that out. We all know what a lousy system of maternity leave we have in the US. Paul raises the question of whether we should also think about offering women time off prior to birth to cut down on stress because we know that will produce healthier babies.

In addition day to day stress, Paul also looked at big events as stressors such as  9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Holocaust and found research that shows some pretty dramatic results. Children in the womb during these periods have long lasting outcomes from the stresses placed on their mothers.

I found Origins to be fascinating. Mothers to be or hopeful mothers to be will find this interesting, but I also think people with curiosity about science and the nature v. nurture argument will also enjoy it a great deal.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Long Winter

I read the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a kid and since I moved to Wyoming, I always think about The Long Winter.



How did people live here before central heat?! I have no clue. The Long Winter is Laura's story of one such winter. After rereading it, I still don't understand how people did it. Laura's town in South Dakota is snowed in for months. They run out of food, the snow is so bad they can't see houses across the street, they live in very cold cold houses.

Sometimes I fool myself that I'm tough, living in Wyoming. I am nothing compared to the Ingalls family and other homesteaders.