An interesting, though not particularly deep, look at the female relations of the men who get written about in the history books. Unfortunately, althoAn interesting, though not particularly deep, look at the female relations of the men who get written about in the history books. Unfortunately, although Roberts makes much of the historical context when discussing how the women broke out of the mold, she does not give the historical context much thought when it comes to the men, leading her to be a bit harsh on the men sometimes.
Perhaps a bit more problematic is that approximately the entire second half of the book is really the same story about the men that we already know, with just brief glimpses of the women. What are we supposed to take away from this? That there's only enough about the "Founding Mothers" to write half a book? Or that, in the end, as interesting as they were, it wasn't the women who made the history after all? Well, we probably already knew that. But this book does give a brief glimpse into the trials and tribulations of the women behind the men....more
Aaron Lansky tells us about a lot more than just his efforts (and those of his many, many supporters) to rescue Yiddish books. He interweaves his storAaron Lansky tells us about a lot more than just his efforts (and those of his many, many supporters) to rescue Yiddish books. He interweaves his stories with a history of Yiddish language, culture, and literature. Although these brief history lessons are not nearly as entertaining as his anecdotes of traveling around the globe (although mostly to New York) to collect the books, put together they make for an engaging, even enlightening read....more
It's tempting to say that Satrapi chose to write her memoir as a graphic novel because she's not very good at narrative writing, but to say that wouldIt's tempting to say that Satrapi chose to write her memoir as a graphic novel because she's not very good at narrative writing, but to say that would be to completely undercut what this book has to offer. Satrapi tells her story through brief narration and elegant black and white drawings, illustrating the repression in Iran (veiled women and bearded men drawn with no mouths) and the freedom of Europe.
Satrapi takes us from her childhood in Iran under the Shah through her experiences during the Islamic Revolution. Her parents send her to Austria when she is 14, and she stays there for 4 years. An outsider in Austria, she returns to Iran, only to continue to feel like an outsider, because she did was not in the country through most of the Iran-Iraq war, and therefore didn't suffer through the bombings and terror that her fellow Iranians did.
Back in Iran, Satrapi continues to be a rebel, but is able to enroll in college to get her degree in graphic arts. Throughout this section of the book, she depicts her personal struggle to reconcile her values with her life in Iran, and to find meaning in her life. She discovers that, for her, meaning comes through education, both personal and institutional, and leaves Iran again to pursue her studies in France.
Through both her drawings and her words, Satrapi tells not just her own story, but that of others affected by the repression in Iran. That this is a graphic novel gives the reader the feeling of a special insider's look into that world....more
This book isn't really about the zookeeper's wife. Rather, Ackerman uses the story of Antonina Zabinski as a backdrop to tell the larger story of theThis book isn't really about the zookeeper's wife. Rather, Ackerman uses the story of Antonina Zabinski as a backdrop to tell the larger story of the Nazi occupation of Warsaw and the Polish Resistance. As a story-telling technique, I have no problem with this, and Ackerman does it fairly well. We learn a lot about Warsaw during the war, as well as learning about such things as the zookeeping trade and animal life. The biggest drawback to Ackerman's use of the technique, I think, is that she starts with Antonina's memoirs, which seem to have been written very lyrically (from the short excerpts we are given), and then tries to use that lyrical tone throughout the whole book. It doesn't work very well, partly because Ackerman doesn't wield her lyricism as naturally, and partly because a war story doesn't lend itself very well to such a tone. It is an interesting story, although I think the story of the zookeeper (who was active in the Polish Resistance, fought for the Home Army in the Warsaw uprising, and was held as a POW in Germany) might have been more interesting than the story of his wife. I guess he didn't write a memoir....more
I almost had to fight with Buzbee in the first chapter of this book. He describes bookstores as places to go to browse (no objection yet), even to sitI almost had to fight with Buzbee in the first chapter of this book. He describes bookstores as places to go to browse (no objection yet), even to sit down and read (no particular objection here either), and to look for particular pieces of information. Wait! Here I object: isn't that what the library is for? Of course, I have my biases (being a librarian) and he has his (being a bookseller).
Having moved on from the first chapter, I was glad I did. I found this a delightful book. It truly is both a history and a memoir. More than that, it is both a personal memoir, and a memoir of bookselling as a profession. He tells his own story alongside that of the history of bookselling, and makes both very interesting.
He includes one statistic that I find distressing, though. He tells us that at an average of one book a week (roughly my own pace, depending on the book, and the week) from the age of 5 to the age of 80, a person will read 3,900 books or a little over one-tenth of one percent of the books currently in print. Far too few, if you ask me....more
The author made an interesting choice to make the story of his own research the focus of this book. I think it worked really well in this case, givenThe author made an interesting choice to make the story of his own research the focus of this book. I think it worked really well in this case, given that there's so little known about the actual John Henry. Nelson is very up-front about the fact that much of his results are based on theory or conjecture, but overall the transparency of his research process gives a lot of weight to his conclusions. This is an interesting book both for what it tells us about the research process, but also for what we learn about John Henry's world....more
Some books that describe a particular place in vivid detail make you really want to visit that place. This is not one of those books. The lush descripSome books that describe a particular place in vivid detail make you really want to visit that place. This is not one of those books. The lush descriptions of the deadly flora and fauna of the rainforest made me perfectly happy to enjoy it all from a distance. But the same descriptions make Roosevelt and his fellow explorers very real, and gave me a good appreciation for the dangers they faced and the risks they took....more
Here’s an interesting technique of historiography: match up pairs of historical figures, making sure that in each pair you agree with one, and disagreHere’s an interesting technique of historiography: match up pairs of historical figures, making sure that in each pair you agree with one, and disagree with the other. Then praise the one in almost every way, while denigrating the other. Lastly, declare that the first was on the side of truth and justice, while the other was merely self-serving. Rosen applies this rubric to pairs of Supreme Court Justices through the ages (although, oddly, he pairs John Marshall with Thomas Jefferson, who of course was never on the Court). Rosen is somewhat ambivalent about the actual role of truth and justice on the Court, but he pulls no punches in proclaiming his thesis that a jurist who looks only to his own legacy will, in the end, have a very poor legacy indeed. He holds in high regard those Justices who essentially play along to get along, and work toward consensus and unity on the Court (he includes Marshall, Harlan, Black, and Rehnquist as the more collegial Justices), rather than those Justices who carve their own jurisprudential path and stick to it (Jefferson, Holmes, Douglas, and Scalia get labeled as “ideologues” under this rubric). Rosen’s thesis may seem unbiased, but he doesn’t give us enough of a reason to believe that consensus is a virtue in its own right. As hard as it is to come down on the same side of any issue as Justice Scalia, I find myself wondering if developing a clear and consistent legal theory, and then applying it fairly, isn’t more important than trying to get people to agree with you.
Having dispensed with the basic premise of Rosen’s book, I did quite enjoy the book itself. It’s very well written, and the anecdotes about both current and historical figures are very interesting. Any student of the Court, or even those with a more cursory interest, will find this book a valuable and enjoyable read....more