Robb's latest book is an insider's history of significant events and people in the history of Paris. As an inveterate Francophile who gave the author'Robb's latest book is an insider's history of significant events and people in the history of Paris. As an inveterate Francophile who gave the author's previous book, The Discovery of France, five stars, I was prepared to be delighted. I wasn't. The tales are interesting but the voice that tells them suffers from a strait-jacketed style that avoids names in favor of anonymous descriptions of events. If this sounds confusing, it is. So for example, it takes a while to figure out that the person enroute to the guillotine is Marie Antoinette.
If you're looking for a good history of Paris, you will be better served by reading Alistair Horne's. ...more
The bodies of humans are suffused with meanings, sacred and profane, poetic and prosaic, sexual and mundane. Gavin Francis' project has been to explorThe bodies of humans are suffused with meanings, sacred and profane, poetic and prosaic, sexual and mundane. Gavin Francis' project has been to explore the meanings attached to each body part from cranium to calcaneus.
Francis' medical training and experiences have suited him well for the task. He recounts clinical stories related to body parts as well as the history of knowledge about the part's physiology and function. Best of all, the incredibly well- read Francis uses literary references to provide us with a sense of how people have viewed body parts over time.
I'm not sure I would pick up a book on anatomy to read for pleasure, but this book was a deep pleasure to read. The prose is beautifully written and the narrative is fascinating. It is charming, witty, and deeply human. Francis would be a great companion for a long evening chat by the fireside....more
The Other Paris reveals the social and cultural history of the City of Light's neighborhoods and streets over time. Extraordinarily well researched, aThe Other Paris reveals the social and cultural history of the City of Light's neighborhoods and streets over time. Extraordinarily well researched, at times the level of detail is overwhelming--lists of names,places, and cultural allusions can make reading difficult in places. But persistence pays and charming vignettes of daily life in the Paris underworld of prostitution, theater, crime, police, and poverty won me over. The history of the Paris Commune was especially fascinating, especially the strong role that women played, despite not having any formal role in politics.
The strength of this book is the vignettes about notable individuals in Paris' subcultures. ...more
Because we live in a nation that is largely segregated by income, poverty is invisible to most Americans. When politicals rant about welfare queens anBecause we live in a nation that is largely segregated by income, poverty is invisible to most Americans. When politicals rant about welfare queens and lazy poor people, defenders are hard to find. Without evidence to the contrary, it's easy to blame poor people for their lot in life. Evicted is both a compelling narrative about people living on the economic edge in Milwaukee's inner city and a masterful ethnographic study of the centrality of housing in understanding poverty in the U.S.
Diane Rehm's latest book tells the story of her struggle to live after the death of her husband who fought a lengthy fight against Parkinson's diseaseDiane Rehm's latest book tells the story of her struggle to live after the death of her husband who fought a lengthy fight against Parkinson's disease. Rehm is the host of NPR's morning program, The Diane Rehm Show, and has continued an active professional life during her husband's years of decline, no mean feat. It's also a love story, told in retrospect. Rehm's marriage was a difficult one to a man who at times shut her out in a cold and even spiteful way. And yet, as so often happens, her love never died and the pangs continue long after his death.
In the end, Rehm's husband chose to refuse water and food in order to hasten his death. He had been in a nursing home, unable to care for himself. Her discussion of the right to die with medical assistance is an illuminating one. Why, she asks, should her husband have to die a long, thirsty death when medicine could provide him with a brief and painless one? Why should states refuse terminal patients the right to die with dignity? These are good questions and she makes compelling arguments in favor of permissive state laws.
Rehm's book evokes a raw, fresh grief that is honest and heartbreaking. What does it mean to lose a loved one and how does one cope? The usual advice does not seem to apply. When is it time to "get over it" or start getting out again? Grief comes in waves, relentlessly. Holidays are hard. Work is a kind of salve, a pause in the pain. Rehm is curious and recounts the stories of friends and acquaintances who have also dealt with grief.
I read this book in part because my husband has been fighting Parkinson's for 24 years now, and we have both talked about the inevitability of death. I recently retired my professorship in Political Science in order to care for him. Is this a better option than continuing a professional life while taking leave for the inevitable medical emergencies that are part of the late stages of the disease? I don't know the answer but I do know that life in a nursing home for my husband would be exceedingly short. In the end, I admire Ms. Rehm for her honesty, her fortitude, and her determination in the face of difficult circumstances....more
Parkinson's disease is a rough diagnosis at any age, but a particularly cruel one when the onset is young. My Degeneration is a graphic memoir of lifeParkinson's disease is a rough diagnosis at any age, but a particularly cruel one when the onset is young. My Degeneration is a graphic memoir of life after Parkinson's by Peter Dunlap-Shohl who was diagnosed at the age of 42, the same age at which my husband was diagnosed. It is funny, honest, ironic, and about as smart a book as I've ever read about the disease (and I may have read them all during the past 23 years of living with Mr. Parkinson). Best of all, Dunlap-Shohl tells his story with engaging cartoons to illustrate the human impact of the disease.
The experience of Parkinson's is very different from the medical community's account of the disease. For example, no one tells you about the crazy, vivid dreams you are going to have, dreams you will often act out by yelling, thrashing, and occasionally punching. Dunlap-Shohl literally provides pictures of it all, including the spouse moving to the couch for her own safety. Been there. Done that.
In a chapter entitled "moping and Coping," the author engages his wife in a conversation about suicide, because why would you not want to avoid "becoming a decrepit, hollow ruin, unable to walk or talk?" This conversation will be very familiar to anyone close to a Parkinson's diagnosis. It's Step One out of the initial pity party and toward a full life with the disease.
My Degeneration is not a depressing book because Dunlap-Shohl has faced the monster and learned to cohabit a pretty happy lifestyle. A talented political cartoonist for the Anchorage Daily News for twenty-five years, he continues to be an active blogger, ride a three-wheeled recumbent badass trike down wooded trails in all weather, and manage Mr. Parkinson reasonably well.
People diagnosed with Parkinson's have wildly varied responses. Some become depressed and hopeless; they don't live long. Most become angry for at least a while. And some, like Dunlap-Shohl become triumphant and wise. So this is a beautiful, witty book, even if you've never had contact with someone with Parkinson's disease. But if you have, this book is essential to understanding their lives....more
As a fan of all things Roman, it's not terribly surprising that I would give Mary Beard's excellent history of a millennium of Roman rule five stars.As a fan of all things Roman, it's not terribly surprising that I would give Mary Beard's excellent history of a millennium of Roman rule five stars. Yet this book is a an outstanding example of history at its best--painstakingly researched, erudite, written in an engaging, accessible style. Best of all, Beard introduced me to ways of thinking about history and some fascinating questions about Roman life. Her discussion of the changing nature and meaning of Roman citizenship alone was worth the price of the book. The political balance of power between the senate and the rulers, the civil wars, the role of military leadership and the shift from Republican leadership to imperium were fascinating.
So many histories of Rome become recitations of successive wars and reigns. Mary Beard has suffused meaning into her analysis of each emperor's era, particularly that of Augustus who forged the template for 200 years of imperium. She brings a fresh perspective to the advent and spread of Christianity using correspondence between Trajan and one of his provincial governors as the basis for a discussion of why early Christians were sentenced to death. Best of all, she gives us a sense of what it might have been like to live in Rome and its provinces.
Highly recommended for general readers, history lovers, and fellow fans of the classical world....more