Definitely lives up to the hype. I didn't realize it would be as dense with allusion as it is: a challenging, honest, erudite story about grief and idDefinitely lives up to the hype. I didn't realize it would be as dense with allusion as it is: a challenging, honest, erudite story about grief and identity and personality. Bechdel remembers and records so much: her obsessively recorded obsessive tendencies, for instance, in her childhood diaries are idiosyncratic and illuminating.
An immensely thoughtful book about self-definition, and thanks to its format surprisingly quick to read....more
The kind of history you can't believe could be forgotten -- but it routinely is. Timothy Egan's journalistic researching serves him in good stead hereThe kind of history you can't believe could be forgotten -- but it routinely is. Timothy Egan's journalistic researching serves him in good stead here, allowing him to paint a detailed picture of the fire and the individuals' stories. The structure, starting at the fire then jumping back to give lots of background, is somewhat teasing, but the background does eventually pay off as the events and their political aftermath unfold.
I got quite attached to the dedicated foresters and plucky citizens of the tale, and even found myself engaged by the portraits of Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, which I did not expect. Come for the amazing stories of survival and inferno, stay for the perspective on the history of the American West, the Forest Service and conservationism!...more
I read this as a teenager, and it was quite possibly the first explicitly feminist work of nonfiction I read. It was an easy read, not especially acadI read this as a teenager, and it was quite possibly the first explicitly feminist work of nonfiction I read. It was an easy read, not especially academic, and very valuable for me in noticing and evaluating the messages I was getting about female bodies, desires, and choices.
It's been a while since I read it, but I remember especially valuing the emphasis on storytelling: the lack of positive stories about female sexual awakening in our mainstream culture, the shift in stories about women's desire over the centuries. I also remember having trouble relating to some of the firsthand tales of girls growing up in the wilder 60's/70's -- I was a very staid (yes, even prudish) 90's teen. But perhaps the shock did me good, and as the book says, storytelling is important....more
Those who have read a lot of Beverly Cleary books, as I have, will recognize some of the incidents and themes of her characters' lives here, albeit seThose who have read a lot of Beverly Cleary books, as I have, will recognize some of the incidents and themes of her characters' lives here, albeit several decades beforehand. What is so striking, and shouldn't be surprising, is how keenly Cleary remembers and understands the inner lives of children -- both herself and the occasional friends and foes in the narrative. It's also delightful to find out how early Cleary resolved to be a writer, and some of her memories -- including one of her earliest! -- are remarkable and interesting.
This book, gentle and personal, is written at a level that child fans of Cleary's should be well able to access, but its attempts to understand and feel compassion for all the characters in the author's life allow it to succeed for an adult reader, as well....more
A sad little book about some of the less well known casualties of World War II: animals in Tokyo's zoo. The watercolor illustrations are lovely, and tA sad little book about some of the less well known casualties of World War II: animals in Tokyo's zoo. The watercolor illustrations are lovely, and the story is moving. The small focus, on the lives of a few elephants, may be particularly effective in making the cost of war clear to young readers....more
This was the text for a History of Modern China course I took in undergrad. From that you can infer that it's very detailed and scholarly. However, itThis was the text for a History of Modern China course I took in undergrad. From that you can infer that it's very detailed and scholarly. However, it's also intensely readable: I've reread it for pleasure in the years since graduation.
The "Modern" China of the title is in the strict sense of Modern, in this case starting in the 17th century. That may seem a long time ago, but the context it gives to more contemporary events is rich and useful. I found the patterns and trends that emerged from this book, as well as the sense of China's journey as a nation, fascinating. The insights I got from this book help me understand a little better China's stance toward the world and place in it. Highly recommended....more
This is a quick read and does what it sets out to do well. That's particularly remarkable because it sets out to be an overview of the history of plumThis is a quick read and does what it sets out to do well. That's particularly remarkable because it sets out to be an overview of the history of plumbing from the 6000 BCE Indus Valley civilization onward and a droll personal account of being obsessed with plumbing. (f.t.6k.BCE.I.V.c.o.)
It's informative (did you know toilet rooms at Roman baths had no privacy?), sweeping (what would happen if we used our sewage to make energy instead of spending energy to clean it?), and very funny. It made me chortle at my lunch counter, in fact. And despite the assumptions I've found people draw when I say it's a hilarious book about plumbing ("poo jokes!?") it's not scatological humor -- it's mostly self-deprecation about how obsessed and occasionally foolish the author is. He also, however, has his wisdom, whether in briefly guessing at the roots of scatological humor, or envisioning a healthier, brighter future where we aren't ashamed to talk about toilets and our planet reaps the benefits.
My least favorite parts were the pro- and epilogue, so if you don't like the first few pages, do skip to Chapter 1 and give it another try....more
I am a big fan of Simon Winchester's books in general, but this one I found less enjoyable than his others. There were occasional inaccuracies ("birdI am a big fan of Simon Winchester's books in general, but this one I found less enjoyable than his others. There were occasional inaccuracies ("bird progenitor pterodactyl"? What?) or oversimplifications (sedimentation can't occur without an ocean?) which bothered me, as well as a certain habit of repetition. I am not sure these flaws were more pronounced here so much as his usual sterling qualities had less range for expression.
This is, after all, a fairly straightforward story. Though William Smith's accomplishments shaped the history of geology, his life and career are fashioned on the scale of the personal, the regional. Where Winchester has excelled, in A Crack in the Edge of the World and Krakatoa, in tracking down scores of accounts and sources and using them to fashion a multi-faceted portrait of vast cataclysm, here he has a smaller canvas to paint. He has fewer sources -- Smith's papers and abortive autobiography, his nephew's biography of him -- as well. There is less here for Winchester to thoroughly investigate and vividly imagine for us, and less surprise. Smith's ill fortune and lack of recognition is hardly startling, since it fits into a pattern in the history of the sciences in Britain, as Winchester notes.
I'm glad Winchester wrote this book. It's unfair that Smith's posterity should be confined to those who took Sedimentology and Stratigraphy courses in college, and I was glad to learn more about him than the single day's lecture I remember from that class. It was edifying, well-written and interesting. However, I feel it could have been pruned quite a bit.
Notes on the audiobook: The author narrated his own book, and did it admirably. His accents for quotes -- notably Smith's own Oxfordshire -- were lovely....more
A well-focused little history. It gives a good overview of the B-24's significance and its contributions to the war in Europe, as well as a moving gliA well-focused little history. It gives a good overview of the B-24's significance and its contributions to the war in Europe, as well as a moving glimpse into the lives and stories of specific men and crews. The book centers on George McGovern, whose experiences as a bomber pilot were remarkable for a reader yet not unusual among his fellows. I emerged with respect and admiration for the man (as well as a wistful curiosity about what his presidency would have been like).
I've mostly read about the ground war in Europe (and heard about it from my grandfather) so this book was an intriguing look at a very different side of the war. It's a fairly quick read, not at all overloaded with aviation jargon, and full of interesting anecdotes and events that I was forced to immediately relate to my unwary friends and family....more