Urban historian Sam Bass Warner, Jr.'s To Dwell is to Garden: A History of Boston's Community Gardens will be of interest to gardeners, botanists, pre...moreUrban historian Sam Bass Warner, Jr.'s To Dwell is to Garden: A History of Boston's Community Gardens will be of interest to gardeners, botanists, preservation planners, and anyone who has ever looked around at a debris-strewn abandoned lot and hankered for a plot of ground on which to grow food, community, and pride of place. This book is effectively three different things: (1) a lovely little essay (ca. 40 pages or so) on the history of community gardens in the U.S, (2) a photo essay by Hansi Durlach,in which attractive black-and-white photographs are interspersed with quotes by gardeners from assorted community gardens around Boston, and (3) a "Seeds of Change"-style ca. 20-page essay outlining what Warner refers to as the cultural histories of assorted plants commonly found in late 1980s-era Boston (when the book was published). Specifically, in this third component he provides some details and stories associated with the Anglo-Irish garden, the Afro-American garden, the Italian garden, the Chinese garden, and the Hispanic garden. And of course it's always fun to look back, years later, and see where foodstuffs once considered exotic have become commonplace.
The book contains just enough footnoted citations to be of use to scholars, but not so many as to dissuade leisure readers in search of some fun stories, interesting connections, beautiful photos, and the motivation to get their hands moving through some soil. For me, the most pleasant surprise was the link forged between urban gardening and the politics of land use--not that the connection surprised me, but I hadn't thought Warner would be tackling some of the harder truths and back story to the challenges still faced, decades later, by community organizers, residents, and gardener wannabes. With his Boston area data, and select examples from elsewhere across the United States, I thought Warner effectively supported his thesis that "...the politics of community gardening does not rest upon philanthropy but springs from a new kind of local politics that grew out of the civil rights movement" (p. 5).
One last observation bears mentioning, I think this book is every bit as relevant today as it was when published back in 1987. Many of the same challenges are still being faced by communities today--particularly new immigrant communities who may be residing in what are commonly configured as "food deserts." (less)
Written by a journalist who also happens to be an attorney, Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of the Largest, Most Fought Over. T. Rex Ever Fo...moreWritten by a journalist who also happens to be an attorney, Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of the Largest, Most Fought Over. T. Rex Ever Found does an outstanding job of setting the scene for exploring the complex parallels between for-profit fossil collection outfits and the universities that cannot possibly pay property owners the collecting fees they increasingly demand and my home discipline of archaeology where private collectors are frequently pitted against professional archaeologists who are bound by tight sets of ethics. Moreover, when we enter the realm of overlap between paleontological collecting and cultural property law, things get additionally interesting. Toss in overlapping jurisdictions of finds made on land held "in trust" for Native American tribes by varied federal agencies who often have quite different resource management policies, the admittedly generalized western divisions between cultural and natural resources, and things just keep getting more and more interesting. Then, as if that's not enough, let's have museums competing against one another and throw in corporate sponsorship and the unintended--but no less real for all that--complications wrought by a specimen such as Sue who sells for $7.6 million on the Sotheby's auction block ($8.36 after commission) and the ripples that causes across assorted ponds.
This book should be read and discussed in many classrooms (e.g., geology, archaeology, museum studies) and, equally important, should be part of the story told at the Field Museum. I'm a member and have been there numerous times, and have yet to see this book in any of the gift shops. While I don't see that last detail changing anytime soon, from here on out, any houseguests are hereby on notice that they'll need to allow me at least an extra 30 mins. or so while I verbally annotate the signage and associated exhibit materials.
As most folks know, Sue is the poster fossil for the Field Museum--in essence, its 21st century brand. As such, museum goers and an interested public deserve to know the greater context of her acquisition. Fiffer's book is a welcome step in that direction and merits a wide readership and considerable discussion. While ostensibly this is a book about paleontology, in reality it is about soooo very much more.(less)
Wow! This is a beautiful book--well written, well-illustrated, makes you want to load up the car and go. It's also one of those "reference" books that...moreWow! This is a beautiful book--well written, well-illustrated, makes you want to load up the car and go. It's also one of those "reference" books that has just the right font that draws you into the book. This will be a fast read.(less)
I bought and read this one precisely because I had enjoyed Truss' _Eats, Shoots, and Leaves_ so very much. While spot on regarding our increasing anno...moreI bought and read this one precisely because I had enjoyed Truss' _Eats, Shoots, and Leaves_ so very much. While spot on regarding our increasing annoyance at constantly being told that things are being done "for our convenience" that are anything but convenient, this book does not have the same joyousness that Truss' first book has. I do think, though, that the chapter on cell phones and the invisible bubble should be required reading of all college freshmen. (Just a thought--for their convenience, of course.)(less)
Since they can't speak to us in language we readily understand, why not improve ourselves by learning to understand what they are trying to tell us. T...moreSince they can't speak to us in language we readily understand, why not improve ourselves by learning to understand what they are trying to tell us. This is also a wonderful primer for kids in learning how to "read" the cat, how and when to approach (or not), and just a good way to learn why it is that that little ball of fur insists on head-butting you. The illustrations are charming, too.(less)
This book offers intriguing insights into the different meanings, modes, and strategies men and women use in day-to-day conversation. A great read tha...moreThis book offers intriguing insights into the different meanings, modes, and strategies men and women use in day-to-day conversation. A great read that gets to the core of the matter--we use conversation to attain entirely different ends, hence there is a lot of failed communication going on when we assume our goals are the same. Well written and easy to comprehend--regardless of what your reason for reading it is :)(less)
Read this book and you will become aware of numerous unrecognized rhetorical devises and linguistic conventions that serve to inadvertently undermine...moreRead this book and you will become aware of numerous unrecognized rhetorical devises and linguistic conventions that serve to inadvertently undermine your authority in the workplace. It's then up to you, whether you chose to abandon these forms or use them sparingly. (less)
This book is super funny, and I very much enjoyed the author's accounts of just trying to do her job and gaining entirely too much information about t...moreThis book is super funny, and I very much enjoyed the author's accounts of just trying to do her job and gaining entirely too much information about the goings-on of her clients. This is a laugh out loud funny book!(less)
This is a very readable book that presents the historical and environmental significance of the Galapagos, the history of the Galapaganos, and the fra...moreThis is a very readable book that presents the historical and environmental significance of the Galapagos, the history of the Galapaganos, and the fragile nature of the island's ecology which is currently being "loved to death" by tourism. As a reader, I find myself in the Catch-22 of wanting to immediately run to the Galapagos before they're altered forever, and the realization that it's already too late and I'll only make it worse. A fascinating, but not hopeless read.(less)
I would really like to award this book two and a half stars, but simply can't round up to three for several reasons as will be developed below.
I was...moreI would really like to award this book two and a half stars, but simply can't round up to three for several reasons as will be developed below.
I was keen to read Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time based on its widely-known message that education, particularly the education of girls and young women, should not be considered a luxury as it has the power to transform lives. Moreover, Mortenson's thesis that one of the best antidotes to a life of hopelessness, despair, poverty, and violence is the offer of opportunity, hope, and a reason to choose life is an equally welcome one. As far as generalizations go, both statements are imminently reasonable. However, the willful naivite with which Mortenson enters the fray will stymy many readers. Long story short, he was lucky. Incredibly lucky.
I wanted far more backstory and geopolitical context on Pakistan and, toward’s book’s end, on how Mortenson expected to replicate the CAI’s somewhat seat-of-the-pants model in post-9/11 Afghanistan. (CAI is the Central Asia Institute, the non-profit established by Mortenson with a major bequest from millionaire inventor and former climber Jean Hoerni.) Instead, we get far more information on the trials and tribulations of Mortenson’s love life than we do the context against which both the need for the schools his organization underwrites and the cultural contexts against which their construction unfolds. There is one throw-away comment about Benazir Bhutto’s corrupt administration, yet no acknowledgment of her potential as a role model to aspiring Pakistani female students. (And even more frustrating is the fact that she didn’t even warrant inclusion in the book’s 11-page index!) As the Balti might say, Cheezaley?!
Yes, there are several references to fatwahs issued against Mortenson by seemingly self-interested parties and discussion of the considerable lengths to which his defenders went to have them publicly denounced by leading clerics. Conspicuously absent, however, is discussion of the role of women in these villages and wider society and anything resembling (1) critical consideration of why in several (but by no means all) instances there was money to build a school for the boys but not for the girls or (2) what familial, social, and/or financial challenges these women face in earning university-level education somewhere down the line. This seems an inexcusable oversight given the fact that Mortenson and Relin wax eloquently about the indirect consequences of opening Korphe up to outsiders as a result of building a bridge to reach the village, “As he walked up the rain-slick gorge to Korphe, keeping the rushing Braldu on his right, Mortenson fretted about the effect his bridge would have on the isolated village” (p. 112). Really? No such consideration is given the potential challenges to be faced by an educated female populace.
In addition to its conspicuous absences (e.g., how did Tara Bishop, Mortenson’s wife, keep their household and two children afloat back in Bozeman, MT, on his $28,000 annual salary?), this book gets in its own way in the voice and pace with which the story unfolds. As for voice, I draw your attention to the fact that the story has two authors—the first of whom is Mortenson himself—yet adopts a third-person voice which is awkward at the best of times. It becomes clunkier still on the occasions on which it cites others asserting that Mortenson deserves a Nobel Prize. Folks like Mike Tyson and Bob Dole are deservedly mocked for speaking of themselves in the third person. It works no more successfully in Mortenson and journalist co-author David Oliver Relin’s account—particularly after a somewhat overdetermined parallel appears to be drawn between Mortenson and the late Mother Theresa. As for pace, which is wildly uneven and altogether rushed in the “and then I pledged to build schools in Afghanistan” last pages, it’s all over the place.
One final criticism bears mentioning, the book appears to reduce all madrassas to post-9/11 jihadist training grounds and then suggest that somehow constructing a CAI-built school right next door will solve everything is both naive and extremely dangerous for the children to be educated in those schools. As social institutions, madrassas have a centuries-long history as places where religious clerics are trained. To paint them all with the same broad brush is just as much an inaccuracy as not explaining some of the wider context for how schools in general are funded in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Context is key here, and it’s sorely missing throughout much of the tale.
I am aware that there is a rejoinder to this work, written by Jon Krakauer and titled Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way. I am less interested in reading that account than in perhaps, one day, getting some follow-up on the life stories of the students educated at the schools constructed by the CAI. That, I suppose, will be the final proof of whether this was all a fool’s errand or not. (less)
Heat-Moon's experiences along the nation's backroads is an invitation to introduce yourself to the people and places of America's backroads. His own p...moreHeat-Moon's experiences along the nation's backroads is an invitation to introduce yourself to the people and places of America's backroads. His own personal "ghost dance" of a journey might well remind us that our priorities are sometimes the tail wagging the dog(s) of our lives. (less)