The title of this book is a take-off on that classic tome of feminism, Our Bodies, Our Selves, and it answers just about every question a Jewish woman...moreThe title of this book is a take-off on that classic tome of feminism, Our Bodies, Our Selves, and it answers just about every question a Jewish woman raised in this post-feminist era might ask. It was well-written and I appreciated some of the insights, but most of them were not new to me. I think this book is best read by an advanced beginner. (less)
This is one of those books whose storyline had me riveted in spite of myself. Not only do I regret having read it, I regretted it while reading it. An...moreThis is one of those books whose storyline had me riveted in spite of myself. Not only do I regret having read it, I regretted it while reading it. And yet I stuck with it till the end. Perhaps for that reason, my rating of 2 is not really fair - an addictive story is a sign of good writing - but if you want to keep your mind and soul clean, this is not the book for you.
The book is a fantasy/horror love triangle between a naive 18-year-old boy, a practicing witch, and a third character whose identity would spoil the whole plot. It's also got some meta elements because the narrator is an 82-year-old writer (much like Richard Matheson himself) telling the story of what happened to him when he was 18. Because he is a writer, he frequently inserts critical comments on his word choices in telling the story. Some of these are funny, but sometimes, it just comes across as gimmicky. The best part by far was the very beginning - realistic descriptions of war; the protagonist fought in World War I.
But seriously, this is one I should have avoided. The word "erotic" in the flap copy was a sure warning sign, but I ignored it because it was Richard Matheson, author of Somewhere in Time. I'm sorry to say, I probably would have had a more kosher Pesach without it.(less)
This was one of the books cited in Philanthrocapitalism and it's very similar, but rather than focusing on philanthropy in general, it focused specifi...moreThis was one of the books cited in Philanthrocapitalism and it's very similar, but rather than focusing on philanthropy in general, it focused specifically on charitable foundations. In tone, however, it was much more academic than Philanthrocapitalism and didn't feature nearly as many famous people, so it wasn't as easy a read. To tell the truth, I nearly gave up after the introduction, but I'm glad I didn't because the book definitely picked up, especially in the case studies chapter. The reason I didn't give up was from a completely "accidental" discovery.
On the day I nearly put this book aside, something put it into my head to search for a video of the author. He's a law professor who wrote a book; he was bound to have done a taped interview or lecture somewhere. But what I totally didn't expect was . . . A JEWISH CONNECTION!
Now, of course, Joel Fleishman is a Jewish name, but I didn't expect a law professor at Duke University to care much about his Jewish identity. Shows you what I know. Among the You Tube video links was a video from Artscroll about its Afikim Foundation. Apparently, Professor Fleishman personally visited the Artscroll warehouse in Brooklyn to thank them for making the Talmud accessible to him with their English translation. They told him about their other intended projects that were frozen due to lack of funds, and he advised them to create a foundation to support the publication of Torah. It's academic research, after all!
Now, with a story like that, you know I had to push my way through this author's book, and as I said, it wasn't too hard to do because most of it was very interesting. The case studies chapter was definitely my favorite, and I've already added The Casebook for the Foundation to my to-read list. It contains the case studies that were part of his research for this book but didn't make it in. The book also taught me about Julius Rosenwald, the original founder of Sears, who, in addition to ample charity given to Jews in Eastern Europe (we're talking the 1930's - really desperate times), gave matching grants to build and run approximately 60 schools for African American children in the era of segregation. Yes, separate is inherently unequal, but these schools, run under the leadership of Booker T. Washington, were all about empowerment. For more reading on that subject, I've added You Need a Schoolhouse and will be keeping my eyes open for more on Julius Rosenwald. He's my new hero, and I would never have known about him if not for this book.
As to the rest of the book, mostly it was about how foundations should open themselves up to the public and be more transparent about their successes and failures. There was also quite a bit about philanthropic strategies. And of course I loved the very ending in the author's acknowledgments. Acharon acharon chaviv, his last "thank you" went to G-d Himself. Isn't that awesome? May Hashem help that the information in this book have practical impact on my life, ie that I should be in a position to give generous amounts of charity. And may He do the same for all the world. After all, isn't charity and its impact ultimately the antidote to poverty, strife, and war? Why don't schools teach more about the good done in history than all the battles, doom, and gloom? Well, if you're interested in that subject, ie the history of philanthropy, this book is a good place to start. (less)
For those who don't know, Gideon v. Wainwright was the landmark Supreme Court case that established the federal requirement for criminal courts to pro...moreFor those who don't know, Gideon v. Wainwright was the landmark Supreme Court case that established the federal requirement for criminal courts to provide defense attorneys for the indigent. In other words, it's the reason we have public defenders today.
The case began when Clarence Gideon, a poor white man sitting in a Florida prison for petty larceny, wrote to the Supreme Court that his 14th Amendment right to due process of law had been violated because the court that convicted him didn't provide him with a lawyer when he asked for one. At that time, courts would only appoint free attorneys under special circumstances, like capital crimes or blatant discrimination. Gideon's case did not meet those criteria. He was a white man accused of petty theft. So his case addressed the issue: is the right to an attorney a universal right as part of due process of law?
What makes Gideon's story so inspiring is that it's a David and Goliath story. The Supreme Court rejects many more cases than it takes on, and that they chose Gideon's petition, which was handwritten in pencil and full of grammar and spelling errors, shows that the little man can sometimes get justice. The story was made into a TV movie starring Henry Fonda seventeen years later, and it's easy to understand why. Everyone loves to see the underdog triumph against the odds.
But the book itself is much more educational than it is entertaining. As a matter of fact, it's pretty legalistic, and I don't think I would have had the patience for it without my paralegal education. But for all the legal history, there are some sections that humanize it: Gideon's original petition to the Supreme Court, Gideon's letter to his attorney telling the story of his life, and excerpts from the transcript of his final criminal trial in Florida. That mix of primary sources and author's commentary make it award-winning journalism, but as a reader, I would have liked even more primary sources. As the author said, our justice system gets hammered out based on the real interests of individuals, so the more we can hear of those individuals' voices, the better.
One last tidbit of particular interest to me: Abe Fortas, the attorney who represented Gideon in the Supreme Court, was Jewish. The author of the book is also Jewish. So when it was all over (either the case or the research for the book; I'm not sure), Mr. Fortas presented Mr. Lewis with a shofar -the kind of "trumpet" the Biblical Gideon would have blown before battle. May Hashem surround His justice in mercy.
This 500+ page legal history was a long slog, but worth it. I learned so much, I feel ready to take the LSATs. It was especially cool to have finished...moreThis 500+ page legal history was a long slog, but worth it. I learned so much, I feel ready to take the LSATs. It was especially cool to have finished it on the very day that the Court upheld the Affordable Health Care Act. As you’ll see by my status updates, that’s not the result I predicted.
I read this book to supplement what I’m learning in paralegal school. With a title like A People’s History of the Supreme Court, I figured it would be more readable than legal opinions and textbooks because 1) “People’s history” made me think it was written for the layperson and 2) The subtitle, The Men and Women Whose Cases and Decision Shaped Our Constitution , made me think it told the human story behind the Court. Sometimes, both assumptions were proven correct. Sometimes, though, the book was as dull as any legal opinion or textbook. As another GR reviewer put it, “My law school texts have more razzle dazzle than this.”
Because it was such a long slog, I began doing status updates to keep myself going. I was tracking my milestones. And now that I’ve gotten to the end of the book, it seems like ages ago that I was reading the initial chapters about the framing of the Constitution. So I think the best way for me to review the book is to list all my status updates in chronological order. As you’ll see, the book really was a review of American history. I highly recommend it, but watch the PBS documentary on the Supreme Court first. It’s a pleasant and easy way to get some of the background that this book will fill out in greater detail.
May 24, p. 66 - I'm up to the framing of the Constitution, and boy was the 3/5 compromise disgusting! The small Southern states wanted the slaves to count toward the population, but wouldn't count them as humans when it came to legal rights. Those are the seeds of the Civil War right there. And all the arguments! It's almost like today, except that now, nobody compromises.
May 29, p. 111 - I'm finally done with the framing of the Constitution and up to the Marshall court! But I'm very glad I saw the Supreme Court documentary TV series. I couldn't get through this book without that background.
May 30, p. 126 - Finished McColloch v. Maryland, which created the Federal Reserve and asserted the "elastic clause" of the Constitution. On to Dartmouth v. Woodword.
May 31, p. 142 - I've finished with the Marshall court, and now I no longer lionize as much as I did. Marbury and McColloch were great decisions, but he often ruled in favor of property rights. As the author states, a man of Marshall's position who surely wasn't afraid to wield his authority might have done more to end slavery. He had the chance in "The Antelope" case.
June 1, p. 162 - I'm up to the Dred Scott case, which is so far the fastest reading of the whole book. This author was a civil rights activist, so slavery is getting special focus. I feel like such an ignoramus. I never knew about the Amistad - now I've got to read up on it!
June 4, p. 190 - The Civil War is over, and Lincoln is dead. You know, I saw that film, "The Confederate States of America," and I remember it singling out Judah Benjamin for inventing the legal concept that slaves were property not people, but it's much older than him, and Chief Justice Taney, who wrote the opinion in Dred Scott, seems just as bad if not worse.
June 6, p. 208 - I'm happy to have passed the 200 mark, but American history just gets worse and worse. It's post-Civil War, the Klan is waging terror in the South, and Cruikshanks, a Klansman, literally got away with murder because of the ruling of the Supreme Court. Outrageous!
June 7, p. 228 - I'm up to Plessy v. Ferguson now, but in fact, there were several Civil Rights cases that preceded it. In one, the case of a black woman on a train between states, Justice Harlan wrote that keeping her in a segregated car was an interference of interstate commerce, the defense ultimately used in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It only took 100 years! (More comments coming soon.)
June 7, p. 230 - Justice Harlan wrote the dissent in Plessy, for which he is celebrated in history, but the author compares him to Lincoln. Both men fought for the legal rights of blacks, but still saw them as inferior. Also, another discrimination case, Yick Wo. v. Hopkins, should have served as precedent to defeat Plessy, but it's a case largely forgotten today.
June 15, p. 306 - I've gotten through the tenure of Oliver Wendell Holmes, the justice I wanted to learn about most. Unfortunately, it turns out he had clay feet. I didn't realize the "falsely yelling fire in a theater" example was his. But the case he applied it to was a protestor of WW I, arguable if it really applied. I also read about the Schecter brothers' case, involving kosher butchers. Shameful!
June 17, p. 347 - Finished with the J- Witness cases, which got a fair amount of details since the author was able to interview Lillian Gobitas, whose refusal to pledge allegiance to the flag became so famous. Ironically, the first J Witness to do that was in Hitler's Germany, and then the people of that religion began doing it as a whole, refusing to pledge allegiance to any national symbol.
June 18, p. 362 - Read about how the Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. After all this, I guess I shouldn't be surprised if they strike down the Affordable Health Care Act. After all, this is the age of Citizens United.
June 21, p. 381 - I've read Thurgood Marshall's pre-Brown strategy, ie deal with higher education and housing cases first, and now I'm in an interlude about the Red Scare. Boy, will I celebrate when I reach page 400!
June 21, p. 396 - I said I'd celebrate at p. 400, but I'm not quite there. Meanwhile, I'm reading Brown and the school cases that went with it. It's the fastest reading of the whole book; you can tell that this is the part that the author is really excited about. Part of their argument was based on self-esteem. They gave black kids brown-skinned and pink-skinned dolls and asked, "Which is the nice one?" Most kids chose white.
June 24, p. 420 - Read about the throngs of people, mostly blacks, who turned out for Chief Justice Earl Warren's funeral in 1974. Brown v. Board of Ed was the best decision the Court ever made. I wonder what they'll do with health care. My hopes aren't high.
June 28, p. 460 - Justice Harry Blackmun is most famous for writing the Roe v. Wade opinion, but I like what he said on Bakke, a challenge to affirmative action: "In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. In order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently. We cannot - we dare not - let the 14th Amendment perpetuate racial supremacy." (less)
Any woman who earns her living as an administrative assistant/secretary will find that this book really hits home. In many ways, it’s a self-empowerme...moreAny woman who earns her living as an administrative assistant/secretary will find that this book really hits home. In many ways, it’s a self-empowerment book for secretaries, especially for those of us who are college-educated (the majority) and feel we should have accomplished more in our careers than being “just a secretary.” But as the subtitle states, the book is also a “retro guide,” a sort of history-lite survey of what the position entailed pre- and post-feminism and pre- and post-computers. The “retro” sources were culled together advice from secretarial training books throughout the first half of the 20th century. Some of it seemed like good common sense, and some of it will make you downright angry. Similarly, some of it is still true today, and some of it will make you glad you're alive and working now instead of 50-100 years ago.
I first learned of this book the way I learn about so many of the others I read: through an author interview on NPR. I was intrigued because of my own mixed feelings about my work. Having been raised in the post-feminist era and enrolled in the honors track in my high school, I disdained secretarial training. As it happens, my mother did suggest it, saying that an executive secretary had to be intelligent, but when I repeated this to my aunt, she said, “Don’t be a secretary. Have a secretary.” So I made a very common mistake, one that was described in ads for secretarial schools in the 1920’s and 30’s. I got a useless liberal arts degree, had to be retrained to gain secretarial skills, and have been working as an office assistant ever since.
I know my work takes brains and is essential to the success of my employer, but the stereotype of the dumb secretary persists. Feminism hasn’t changed that entirely, and in some ways, it’s made things worse. We’re the stragglers who got left behind as the smart ones were getting ahead, breaking through the glass ceiling.
One of the most frequently used terms in the book is “office wife.” I’d never heard anyone else use the term before; I actually thought I’d coined it myself. But the way I meant it was more like “homemaker of the office.” Like a housewife, the secretary does all the important yet undervalued work that keeps the whole thing running. The author, however, stressed a much different connotation: potential mistress to the boss. Hollywood made much of that stereotype, but to paraphrase one woman journalist of 1912, a wife had nothing to worry about from her husband’s secretary. If the secretary wasn’t busy avoiding all the mistakes that would make the boss grumpy, she was wondering how in the world he ever found a woman who could actually stand him.
Though there was a lot more about boss/secretary dalliances and sexual harassment than I really wanted to read about, I thought the book was excellent. The tone was light and often funny, and yet the author was as thorough as a scholar. She covered everything from the politics of making coffee to massaging the boss’ ego. Especially interesting to me were the bios of the famous secretaries: Katherine Gibbs, divorcee and founder of the Harvard of secretarial schools; Rose Mary Woods, secretary to Richard Nixon whose loyalty was so strong that she claimed responsibility for erasing the tapes subpoenaed by Congress; and Bette C. Graham, inventor of that multi-million dollar item, Liquid Paper. I can see why other reviewers found parts of the book repetitive, but mostly, I was either laughing out loud or thinking, “Ain’t that the truth.” For that reason, I’ve already recommended the book to my classmates at paralegal school and may just email all my old co-workers about it. As the author says in her intro, “Here’s to us! Without us, none of the work would ever get done!” (less)
I am going to give this book the highest praise I can possibly give to any book: it helped me remember G-d. Many Jewish books have inspired me over th...moreI am going to give this book the highest praise I can possibly give to any book: it helped me remember G-d. Many Jewish books have inspired me over the years, and many self-help books actually helped, but I’ve never found a book that addressed practical spirituality quite like this one. It works because the author is open about her own struggles, so she doesn’t come across as judgmental. But her metaphors are really what did it for me. So accessible and apt, I was saying “Ahh” from the very first page. (Remember, I read this immediately after Eat, Pray, Love, so reading the Jewish approach to spirituality was a breath of fresh and familiar air. Incidentally, Sara Rigler herself is a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, and the book contains a chapter called “Eat, Pray, Love, and Then What?,” which I actually skipped ahead to.)
Probably the most relevant chapter to my life was “The Spiritual GPS,” which is about recognizing whether you are in a place of connectedness or divisiveness at any given moment. Of course, it’s easy enough to detect, except when in a place of divisiveness, it’s just as easy to forget to notice and perpetuate it. A close second was “The Horse in the Gate,” which teaches that when you’re between a rock and a hard place, frustrated by some external limit even though you’ve got the energy of a horse and want to just forge on ahead, daven to Hashem. He’s not limited in the solutions He can provide. But I’ve also been enjoying and getting use from the exercise of brainstorming about two questions to help discover my mission on this earth: 1) What are my five happiest moments? and 2) What would I do with a billion dollars? And here’s one final totally awesome insight: acceptance of life’s challenges leads to spiritual growth, but using life’s challenges as springboards to positive action is spiritual greatness.
Because of the movie "American Treasure" and the plot sequence involving Benjamin Franklin's Silence Dogood letters (a series of letters he published...moreBecause of the movie "American Treasure" and the plot sequence involving Benjamin Franklin's Silence Dogood letters (a series of letters he published under a pseudonym at age 16), my youngest son became interested in him and picked out a biography for me to read aloud at night. That biography, written for kids, cites its main source as Ben Franklin's autobiography, so I figured it was high time I read that American classic.
I'll admit it: the old-fashioned language of the original is daunting and sometimes made for dull and/or difficult reading. But if you're willing to push past that, you'll be richly rewarded. Because of the language and a few other things I'll go into below, I've rated this book a 4, but some of Franklin's insights are 5-star gems of wisdom. And he's also deliciously tongue-in-cheek.
The other reason I didn't give the book a 5 is that it's more memoir than a complete biography. The only mention of the Silence Dogood letters is in the outline at the end; the letters or even a discussion of them didn't make the actual book. He does mention his lightning experiments, but almost in passing, presumably because he'd already published the details elsewhere. And though he does mention the French and Indian War and how it revealed the British army's weakenesses to the colonists, he doesn't talk much about the Revolution and doesn't seem to mention working on the Constitution at all. So while this is probably the best source there is on Franklin's early life and contains some excellent insights into human nature, to get a more general look at Franklin's life, I think I need to read another biography. (less)
I first heard of this book from Rabbi Berel Wein who used it in his research for the lecture series, "Jewish Political Intrigue." Lucky for me, I didn...moreI first heard of this book from Rabbi Berel Wein who used it in his research for the lecture series, "Jewish Political Intrigue." Lucky for me, I didn't get around to actually reading it until after I'd begun paralegal studies and gotten familiar with reading court opinions. It also helped that I'd seen the excellent PBS series on the Supreme Court.
The book is a comparison on the first and third Jewish Supreme Court Justices, namely, Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter. Rather than labeling them "liberal" and "conservative," the author characterizes their worldviews as advocacy for the outsider versus identification with the insider. It also compares their attitudes toward their own status as Jews. Brandeis, though not raised religious, was a leader in the Zionist movement, while Frankfurter, who was born in Europe and raised Orthodox, shed all of that in order to become an "insider," a status the author states he never quite achieved. But in fairness, for all his defense of the insiders, Frankfurter was a member of the unanimous court that ended segregation. (Brandeis had already passed away by then.)
From a Jewish perspective, the most interesting chapter is the very last one. But the book is a survey of Supreme Court history as much as it is a biography of its two main subjects. So if you read this book, watch that PBS series on the Supreme Court. It will make the experience of reading this book that much richer.(less)
This is another economics book that I learned about through NPR, and I read it immediately after another such book, A Capitalism for the People by Lui...moreThis is another economics book that I learned about through NPR, and I read it immediately after another such book, A Capitalism for the People by Luigi Zingales. If you recall from my review of the Zingales book, I thought it was very well done, but I was disappointed that it didn't tell me what I as an individual can do to improve the economy - on my own personal scale and for the world at large. Unfortunately, I can say exactly the same for this book. Well done, but it didn't answer my most important question, though for a completely different reason. Whereas Zingales' recommendations were all on the level of policy, which I have no control over, this book emphasized the power of innovative technology, and since I'm just a bookkeeper/secretary, it still felt beyond my reach.
The book is divided into three sections that correspond to the title. The first, Need, was my favorite section. It argues that the best innovations solve some pressing need, as opposed to being some new-fangled widget. It also argues that need is what's driving the emerging economies of China and India. They're developing better and cheaper technologies because they have to. They're on lower budgets.
Speed was my least favorite section because it was the most technological. The main theme there was that in this Internet age when communication is so fast, competition is fiercer than ever. So if you want to win the innovation game, you'd better be the first at the finish line.
And finally, there was Greed, good old-fashioned self-interest. This section included a chapter called "Greed for Good," which was all about social entrepreneurship. That was my favorite of the whole section, but I think it's a semantic stretch to call the charitable impulse "greed," even if it is "greed for good."
And last came the conclusion: optimistic and therefore worth reading. As to the book overall, though - well done, but not what I was hoping for. (less)
Creativity is a topic that deeply interests me, and I’ll read just about anything if it promises to increase mine. The proof of that is that I read th...moreCreativity is a topic that deeply interests me, and I’ll read just about anything if it promises to increase mine. The proof of that is that I read this book knowing that parts of it were fabricated and others were plagiarized. It’s a real shame, too, because this is just the kind of book I’d normally rate a 4 if not a 5. It mixed together psychology with stories of all kinds of creative endeavors – from collaboration on Broadway musicals to the development of the Swifter mop. The author did subscribe heavily to what Susan Cain called “the new groupthink” in her book Quiet, but on the other hand, the book consistently supports the exercises recommended by Dorothea Brande in Becoming A Writer. So under ordinary circumstances, I’d probably be raving about this book. Now I’m just wondering which parts of it were true. (less)
The person who recommended this book to me absolutely raved about it, but I found it unfocused and confusing, which may have been precisely the point....moreThe person who recommended this book to me absolutely raved about it, but I found it unfocused and confusing, which may have been precisely the point. It is, after all, the memoir of an autistic. Still, I am giving it a 3 instead of a 2 because I read it over a decade ago and yet many parts of it are still clear in my mind. That's powerful writing. But be warned: not only is the author autistic, she was also abused and at times, she gets pretty graphic. (less)
I began this out of interest in Octavia Hill, so I skipped right ahead to her section. I read most of the bio, but then I got up to the theology that...moreI began this out of interest in Octavia Hill, so I skipped right ahead to her section. I read most of the bio, but then I got up to the theology that motivated her. I can respect that religion inspires activism, but when it's not my religion, I'm not all that interested in reading about it. I suppose I ought to bear that in mind when my writing doesn't excite that much interest.(less)
I previously read, though didn't finish, How to Win Friends and Influence People, so I knew I liked Dale Carnegie's casual writing style and very much...moreI previously read, though didn't finish, How to Win Friends and Influence People, so I knew I liked Dale Carnegie's casual writing style and very much agreed with his advice. But much of this book is made up of excerpts from How to Win Friends, so it was a bit redundant for me. I also questioned the advice more on this read than on my previous one, which is largely because of the advice of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. I suppose some middle path between the books is the right balance. There's probably more overlap than there is disagreement. (less)
I saw several adaptations of this book in childhood, so I never got around to actually reading it until I was an adult. By then, I was already religio...moreI saw several adaptations of this book in childhood, so I never got around to actually reading it until I was an adult. By then, I was already religious, so I was pleased with the grandmother's advice about prayer, which never made it into any of the adaptations I saw. Rather makes me wish I had read it as a kid. Perhaps then I could have learned that all-important lesson of what to do when you don't have what you want and you can't do anything about it.