I almost stopped reading this, and I'm glad I trucked through it and finished it just minutes before NaNoWriMo 2010 began. I found the first half kind...moreI almost stopped reading this, and I'm glad I trucked through it and finished it just minutes before NaNoWriMo 2010 began. I found the first half kind of slow and, while I like the idea behind the book, the story didn't really engage me at first. It seemed kind of light and like not much was happening. I found it a little tough to imagine that a 14-year-old (albeit a 14-year-old human/bonobo hybrid) would fit in with high school seniors as well as Lucy seemed to. I did like the details about The Stream and about how the other characters sensed something different about Lucy and all tried to reason it out in different ways.
I found the short sections written in Lucy's voice to be quite compelling and eloquent. I wonder if the book may have held more interest for me from the beginning were it written in Lucy's voice, either completely or in larger part.
Then about halfway through, the book took off, and I tore through it. The relationships deepened, the characters developed and became more 3-dimensional, and I began to actually care about them. Maybe it just took the central conflict to transform this bunch into people I'd want to know.
A couple of things I was curious about that Gonzales didn't address. One was the difference in development between a newborn bonobo and a newborn human. As I understand it, because humans have larger brains and smaller pelvises (because we walk upright), we are born about 3 months earlier, developmentally speaking, than bonobos and chimps are. So when a bonobo is born, they're at a developmental stage roughly equivalent to a 3-month-old human. With a bonobo mom, would Lucy have been born like a bonobo newborn, and if so, would her head have fit OK through Leda's pelvis? Or would Lucy have been born at the same stage as a human newborn, in which case, what adjustments would Leda have had to make to allow for a baby who couldn't immediately cling to her fur with the strength a bonobo newborn could?
At times I found Gonzales' allusions to be a little heavy-handed. In the portion of Lucy's memoir that we get to read, there's an allusion to the Garden of Eden, how Lucy was a bonobo until she learned to write, and then began to differentiate towards the human side of her genetic heritage, leaving behind the innocence of her bonobo relatives. I would have preferred if Gonzales had just let the reader feel clever for having picked that allusion up rather than making direct reference to Eden.
The portrayals of the two main reactions to Lucy's existence were a little black-and-white, too. Those opposed to her were religious fanatics who wanted her caged and/or killed and those who supported her were all good, intelligent people who accepted her human side and didn't seem to have any serious problems with her ape side. Seems like in reality, those reactions would be a little more nuanced.
All-in-all I found this to be an enjoyable read. Touches on a fairly surface level some very deep issues (and brought up an application of the USA Patriot Act I hadn't considered), and explores what it means to be human.(less)
This book isn't just about running. It's also about writing. And a little bit about triathlons and running a jazz club in Tokyo. I think it would have...moreThis book isn't just about running. It's also about writing. And a little bit about triathlons and running a jazz club in Tokyo. I think it would have universal appeal, not just to runners or writers. But then, I enjoy running and writing, so I'm probably not the best judge of this.
I also really like Murakami's novels. I found it reassuring to find that he seems to be just kind of a regular guy, even though he writes pretty off-the-wall books. It has helped me feel like I can write off-the-wall books without being any more odd than I already am. As my friend helpfully pointed out, just because I think Murakami sounds kind of like me doesn't mean he's not strange.
Overall, I found this memoir to be very accessible and conversational. It showed me a lot about Murakami's process as a writer and as a runner and how these two things feed into each other. I just liked it.
Oh, and here's a quote from the book that I think applies to many people, not just runners or writers:
"To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient tasks. But even activities that appear fruitless don't necessarily end up so."
It's this general thought that keeps me going as a mother. I also see my daughter learning this lesson as she practices her flute every day. That may not be exactly universal, but it's broader than just runners and writers.(less)
Holy schmoley! I forgot how wonderful this book is!
My kindergarten teacher gave me a hardcover version when my family moved away, and while I remembe...moreHoly schmoley! I forgot how wonderful this book is!
My kindergarten teacher gave me a hardcover version when my family moved away, and while I remember reading it, I also remember having a really tough time with the dialect and the Indian words and phrases. And, of course, the significance of Mary being born in India of British parents didn't hit me at all at age seven. Mostly I just remembered that Mary was a brat.
Then when my husband, daughter, and I moved away from California again, my friend gave my daughter this illustrated edition. My daughter (now seven herself) read it aloud with her dad before bedtime, and they both loved it so much, I picked up the audiobook (read by Finola Hughes) so we could all enjoy it on long car rides.
The book is delightful by itself, but hearing Finola Hughes' "broad Yorkshire" really helps our Yankee brains to understand the dialect. Inga Moore's illustrations in this edition are beautiful and heighten the whimsy in the story.
I had forgotten how wonderful this book is. I appreciate the subtlety and innocence of the discussion of "Magic." I especially loved the portion of a chapter written from the robin's point of view. It was a little jarring at first because it was so different from the rest of the book, but once I got my bearings, it really added an interesting dimension. I didn't like so much the chapter written from Mr Craven's point of view. It was less colorful and more difficult to follow than the others, although I understand its importance in illustrating how he made such an abrupt transformation from how he seemed at the beginning of the book. Burnett's treatment of culture is respectful and focuses on the universal elements that connect us all, regardless of our heritage. She treats nature almost like another culture, suggesting that an understanding of nature goes hand-in-hand with understanding other people.
As I finished one of the later chapters, I found myself impelled to go out to my own garden and weed. I even braved the creepy spider webs and cleaned out the shed. Alas, the book's effect so far has not been enough to get my kids to go outside and work in the garden with me, but I still have hope. I also hope that, if I do manage to get them outside most of the day, they might be less picky about the "victuals" I set in front of them.(less)
I love Weiner's writing style. Not only did I have fun while learning a lot about happiness as it relates to geographical location, but I now feel ins...moreI love Weiner's writing style. Not only did I have fun while learning a lot about happiness as it relates to geographical location, but I now feel inspired to finally get a passport and go traveling. How long this plan will actually take to put into action is yet to be seen, but the desire to travel abroad feels delightfully unique to me.
I really enjoyed reading about the paths to happiness different individuals and different cultures have taken. It's given me a lot to think about (and post about on my blog).(less)
The world Grossman creates drew me in. In spite of having gotten less sleep than usual this week because of a sick baby, I stayed up until 2am to fini...moreThe world Grossman creates drew me in. In spite of having gotten less sleep than usual this week because of a sick baby, I stayed up until 2am to finish this book. I didn't give it five stars just because it didn't blow me away, but I did find it thoroughly enjoyable.
Both Harry Potter and The Magicians take place, in part, in a school for magicians, but while Harry Potter was about the battle between good and evil within the world of magic, The Magicians is about the internal struggle of those who possess magical powers to make a life for themselves in the "real world" (although there's some struggle within the magical world, too). Reading Harry Potter, I found myself craving the ability to perform magic. Even with all of the danger, it seemed like fun. Reading The Magicians, magic is revealed to take a great deal of effort and to be dangerous to even attempt to perform. Being able to perform magic just kind of scratches the surface off of a world largely hidden from our eyes, revealing a complexity beyond comprehension and a grave responsibility for those gifted with magical abilities.
And I love the satisfyingly nerdy tip of the hat to classics of fantasy literature. (less)
Wow. I admit that I was tepid about this book much of the way through it. Still I read on, gripped by the story in spite of myself. The ending, howeve...moreWow. I admit that I was tepid about this book much of the way through it. Still I read on, gripped by the story in spite of myself. The ending, however, was phenomenal, and after reading it, I felt all the pieces I thought hadn't fit together well throughout the book just kind of slide into place.
I particularly like the idea that there is an invisible barrier between the awful thoughts we might have and our actions, and that the most terrifying thought is the reality that there truly is no barrier. I remember having a feeling like this when I first got my drivers license and I realized that there was really nothing keeping me from driving off the road. Around the same teenage time, I remember sitting in a quiet class and thinking there was nothing keeping me from just screaming. I never drove off the road and I never screamed in class, and until reading this book, I never thought of why exactly it was I hadn't.(less)
I liked this book but didn't love it. There's a certain style that some writers have when they write about New York City. It is, perhaps, their style...moreI liked this book but didn't love it. There's a certain style that some writers have when they write about New York City. It is, perhaps, their style even when they're not writing about New York. I wouldn't know since I only read one thing in that style then avoid the author afterwards. The word "sardonic" comes to mind, but that's not quite it. It's kind of an undercurrent of, "I know the different neighborhoods, I know the art, I know the fashion, so you know I'm cooler and more clever than you." I got the same thing from Don DeLillo and the one Norman Mailer book I attempted to read (although that one wasn't set in New York, it had a similar style).
I agree with my friend Lauren that Cunningham's descriptions of people are largely satisfying, but he relies a lot on dropping the name of the designer of the person's boots or scarf or whatever to illustrate something about the person's character. On the one hand, I think this says something about the shallowness and appearance-consciousness of the main character. On the other, as someone who recognized only Prada and Tony Lama among the dozens of designer/brand names in the book, I think I missed some of what he was trying to say about his characters. He does a similar thing with references to artists and works of art. I don't even know if the artists he mentions are real or fictional. I'm guessing it's a combination of the two, but I couldn't tell you which were which.
Reading a book like this is kind of like sitting at a dinner party filled with people who know each other who, rather than inviting me into the conversation, persist in speaking only in private jokes that are meant to impress me but merely confuse and exclude me. I get it, I want to say. You're clever. Now can I just eat my dessert and go home?
By Nightfall wasn't as bad as that for me. I enjoyed the gradual unraveling of the main character and his view of the world. I grew to admire the Carole Potter character, and felt I got a good sense of her and her home, despite the fact that I had to gloss over the drawn-out description of every piece of art in her foyer and living room.(less)
The Imperfectionists is the biography of a newspaper, from its birth to its death, told through interwoven stories of the lives of those people who sh...moreThe Imperfectionists is the biography of a newspaper, from its birth to its death, told through interwoven stories of the lives of those people who shaped the paper and whose lives the paper shaped. There's a "how did we get here?" theme that runs through each of the stories, reflecting the disorientation I (and I think a lot of people) feel when I step back and realize the cumulative effect of each small decision of my life. There's also a sense of being at the mercy of forces beyond our control. In this book, the force often seems to be other people.
The stories fit together well, the characters were well-drawn and distinct. Most (maybe all?) of the stories deal with the difference between our public selves and our private selves, and the difference between how people view us and how it actually feels to be in our skin.
My two favorite stories were the one about Arthur Gopal and the one about Abbey Pinnola. I think that any of the stories could stand alone, but these two--and most especially the Abbey story--really stand on their own and read like short stories. They were also both very poignant and powerful examples of the depth of Self under the surface of what others perceive.
Reading this book was like eating a well-prepared raw foods meal: it was pleasant to consume and left me feeling satisfied but not logy and with the sense that I'd really nourished myself. (less)
This was a decent little book. It was a little disjointed, and I though t the authoer could have woven the different elements together a little more t...moreThis was a decent little book. It was a little disjointed, and I though t the authoer could have woven the different elements together a little more tightly. I found it moderately enjoyable.(less)
I find this book useful in helping me to recognize and practice different ways of showing love (and of recognizing when someone else is trying to show...moreI find this book useful in helping me to recognize and practice different ways of showing love (and of recognizing when someone else is trying to show their love for me). It didn't blow my mind, perhaps because I already knew a bit about the concept from a session I attended at a homeschooling conference. It was decent, though. I was a bit disappointed there wasn't a simple quiz to take to identify my children's love languages. This is a bit funny to me, since I tend to ridicule books with quizzes in them. I've so far not been able to identify anyone's love language, but I have expanded my repertoire of ways in which I express my love.(less)
City of God was a book I assigned myself as part of a Classics Club reading challenge in December. Since I was already reading Ulysses, I probably sho...moreCity of God was a book I assigned myself as part of a Classics Club reading challenge in December. Since I was already reading Ulysses, I probably should have chosen lighter fare, but it turned out okay. It only took me eleven days past the end of December to finish City of God, and I found I really kind of enjoyed the book. It's not a page-turner, but the translation I read was fairly accessible, despite some passages that made me think of scene in The Princess Bride where Vizzini is explaining to the Man in Black how he knows which cup holds the iocane powder. "Truly, you have a dizzying intellect," says the Man in Black after a long string of pseudo-logic from Vizzini.
"Wait 'til I get going!" replies Vizzini.
Anyway, I liked Augustine's book. It helped that I read an abridged edition (abridged from the 1958 Fathers of the Church, Inc., translation, published by Image Books). This book has already helped me understand some of the other classics I've been reading because it helps me understand the worldview of someone from centuries ago, which is at times a wildly different worldview than mine.
The first part of City of God is devoted to refuting the idea that Christianity was the cause of the fall of Rome. Augustine does this in part by arguing that the Roman gods must not be very good gods because they didn't help out Rome when it needed them. Augustine argues that Roman gods are actually demons because they try to divert to themselves sacrifices and adulation that should go only to the one true God. I don't get why Augustine engages in this "my God's better than your gods" argument when he could just argue that the Roman gods don't exist. But perhaps this is another of those differences in worldview between a 21st-century stay-at-home mom and a 4th/5th-century Catholic bishop.
This critical analysis approached The Great Gatsby from several different angles and enhanced my reading of Fitzgerald's classic. I especially liked P...moreThis critical analysis approached The Great Gatsby from several different angles and enhanced my reading of Fitzgerald's classic. I especially liked Parkinson's read of the interplay between the real world and the imagined world. It was also kind of fun when she added parenthetical clarifications about what the World Series is. I'm not a baseball person, but living in the U.S. my whole life, I forget that general baseball knowledge is unavoidable here and basically nonexistent elsewhere.(less)
I find it somewhat funny that I lived in Utah for three years and didn't finally read this book until I'd moved to Massachusetts.
The book takes a fair...moreI find it somewhat funny that I lived in Utah for three years and didn't finally read this book until I'd moved to Massachusetts.
The book takes a fairly strong stance about public education, and it's clear that DeMille holds the political view I think of as Utah Libertarian, but looking past those strong convictions, his assertions sound solid, and I plan to implement some of his ideas into my own homeschool curriculum.
This is basically a variation on a Classical Education as outlined by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer in their The Well-Trained Mind. Since I'm already a big fan of Classical Education, TJEd isn't that huge a change. The big difference is that DeMille has distilled it to the point that reading the classics is critical for the teacher, and that learning from the classics is critical for the student. Everything, according to DeMille, should be learned by reading the classics, including math, science, and foreign language.
The idea is that the Founders of the United States were all better educated than anyone taught during the second half of the 20th century on (during which time the US education system has increasingly relied on a conveyor-belt method of educating youth, according to DeMille and others), and that by going back to the way the Founders were taught, we can groom more effective, more eloquent, and more moral leaders.
I think I can agree with his basic premises, particularly that a teacher's job is to inspire a student to do her/his own learning. A teacher can't force a child to acquire knowledge, and she certainly can't force a child to learn to think critically and logically address issues. The best a teacher can do is to encourage a student to want to learn things on her/his own.
I like his suggestion that time should be structured, but that what the child does during that time should not. We need, says DeMille, to enforce daily study times and routines, but that within those times, there should be a fair amount of freedom for children to study where their interests lead. In this model, the teacher's role is to help a child see the connections between different academic disciplines within her/his particular area of interest.
So, if the child wants to learn about castles, the teacher can help him find information about the medieval period (politics, religion, scientific advances), principles of math and physics that go into castle building, the music popular during the time, the lifestyle of those living within the castle walls compared to that of the people outside the castle walls, etc. This helps children learn that facts in the real world aren't actually compartmentalized into disciplines and that the separations we've made are a fairly recent innovation.
This last part isn't a new idea, but the idea of the structured time during which the child leads the activities is a new one for me, and one that I think will work very well with the way my daughter learns.
In addition, I definitely want to read more classics on my own. I'd already determined that this is a sizable gap in my own education. Because I want to include classics in my children's education, I need to read them myself so I can properly mentor my children and help them to determine where to start and then where to go next as they begin to tackle the classics.
I don't plan on scrapping all other curricula and relying solely on classics. I still plan to use a math curriculum and I don't plan on strictly adhering to DeMille's Phases of Learning. But I think it makes perfect sense, along with other ways of exploring a subject, to go to the source and experience the way the great thinkers think and read the way great writers write. This is similar to the Suzuki Method in music: you expose children to great music early and often, and this helps them emulate the best musicians. I think the same would go for great thinkers and great writers.
If I want my children to be well-educated and great thinkers, it makes sense for them to learn from the best.(less)
I marked this as "read" although I didn't read it all the way through. It would be difficult to do so, I think, since it's so incredibly full of infor...moreI marked this as "read" although I didn't read it all the way through. It would be difficult to do so, I think, since it's so incredibly full of information and suggestions. Instead, I skipped through, reading a bit here and a bit there and focussing my attention closely on those areas of particular interest to me (and then just picked today to say that I was, effectively, done).
While there’s more information in this book than one can really use, that's kind of the point. Luhrs presents snapshots of people engaged in the practice of voluntary simplicity as a way to give the reader ideas for his or her own life. There's no way anyone could do everything in this book, nor should they try.
This isn’t a typical “here’s how to live simply” book that flippantly presents just one way of living simply and leaves out the internal process that precedes the external changes involved in living simply. Rather, it says something more along the lines of, “Here’s the philosophy. Here’s what some people have done to live that philosophy. Maybe something here will work for you.” Identifying one’s values and discovering ways to live them is a very personal and often very difficult process, and while I, too, find the scope of information in the book overwhelming, I appreciate that Luhrs isn’t just giving the same old, “It’s simple, Stupid,” suggestions that shoot down would-be practitioners of voluntary simplicity for not doing it the one “right” way rather than inspiring them to find their own path.
With each suggestion (and I use the term loosely), Luhrs refers back to the philosophy, which is basically to identify your values and align your life with them. For example, in the section about Families, she talks about chores and allowance. She explains that before you decide what to do about chores and allowance, you need to determine what your motivation is. If you want to use chores and allowance to teach your children about money management, you'll handle things one way, If you want to use them to teach the value of work, you'll handle things a different way. She explains that both are valuable lessons, and that it's each parent's decision which lesson they're hoping to teach. She then gives examples of how real families have done things to meet each motivation. In the end, my husband and I decided to do something different from any of the things she suggests, but the ideas got us thinking and got us into a conversation that we'd been avoiding. Our families of origin handled money very differently, and we've been stymied about the best way to teach our daughter the lessons we've acquired over the years. When we're stymied, our natural tendency to procrastinate takes over. Luhrs' suggestions got us over that hurdle, and that's fairly impressive.
So, good (albeit slightly dated) suggestions, love the focus on the philosophy. If you've started doing the inner work of identifying your values and want to read about how other people are living similar values, this is a decent place to start. You can't follow this book from cover to cover and find yourself living simply. Luhrs offers you the tools, and you need to choose which are appropriate for living the values you want to live.(less)