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


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. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 Favorites

My goal for 2012 had been 175 books. Unfortunately, those months of feeling so shitty took their toll and I only hit 130. I have no idea what to expect when Camper (not her name, just her nickname til we decide on a name) comes so I think that if I set a goal for 2013, it will be low--maybe 75? That makes me a little sad, thinking about not having as much time to do something I enjoy so much, but I think I'm also judging that on my horrible Sept, Oct, and Nov when I didn't feel like I could do anything. Not having time or desire to read when Camper's here will be a different thing.

My 2012 favorites, in no particular order:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen  (classic)
I read an annotated version, which I loved. I think it gave me a much better understanding of the time period and therefore a greater appreciation of the book.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (young adult)

Maphead: The Wide, Weird World of Geogrpahy Wonks by Ken Jennings (non-fiction)

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin (sociology, memoir)

Some of It Was Fun: Working with RFK and LBJ by Nicholas Katzenbach (history, memoir)
Katzenbach worked for the Justice Department in the 1960s and was on in the middle of the action on lots of different civil rights events.

Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation by Scott Farris (history)
Farris profiled losers of presidential races. We've all probably heard of Henry Clay and William Jenning Bryan, but don't know much about them. I learned a lot of American history and really admired some of the losers.

The Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd (historical fiction, mystery)
This is a mystery series set in WWI England with Bess Crawford, a nurse, as the protagonist. 

While not a favorite, I'm still proud of myself for conquering the beast that is War and Peace.