This book tells three stories. It tells the story of Rin Tin Tin, the puppy found on the battlefield of France, who became a movie star, and the threeThis book tells three stories. It tells the story of Rin Tin Tin, the puppy found on the battlefield of France, who became a movie star, and the three people who contributed to the story and the myth: Lee Duncan, Bert Leonard, and Daphne Hereford. It also tells the story of Orleans interest in Rin Tin Tin and her research process for the book. She also tells the story of the way America interacts with dogs throughout the twentieth century and the twenty-first century. Her splendid prose ties all of the stories together. There is much to learn here: why dogs could be stars in the silent movies (which is especially appropriate given that The Artist just won Best Picture) and that many German Shepherds were movie stars, how dogs are used by the Armed Forces, how dogs became pets and not just working animals, and then became famous for being working animals. The three people most associated with Rin Tin Tin are portrayed sympathetically, but with all their peculiarities as well. Orleans doesn't make caricatures of any of them. The end of the story seems sad, like losing a best-loved pet. ...more
Eagleman makes the reader contemplate how much is happening in the brain (and body) that is not conscious, in fact can't be conscious. This book proviEagleman makes the reader contemplate how much is happening in the brain (and body) that is not conscious, in fact can't be conscious. This book provides insight into neurology. It is accessible and Eagleman is a craftsman with language....more
This book was an eye-opening look at an event which profoundly changed America, that hardly anyone knows about. An above ground storage tank of molassThis book was an eye-opening look at an event which profoundly changed America, that hardly anyone knows about. An above ground storage tank of molasses collapsed and killed people. Molasses was used to create munitions during the first world war, as well as rum. So huge quantities of it were necessary. There were simply no regulations on storage tanks, where they could be located, or how they needed to be built. This book creates Boston in the early decades of the twentieth century and tells about the business climate of the time. Even though regulations were beginning to be standard, as muckraking journalists and progressive politicians worked together, this story helps us remember why regulations are a good idea. On a personal note, this is the first ebook I bought....more
This wasn't what I expected. Given that the author is a neurologist, I expected more non-fictional accounts of after-life experiences. What the book dThis wasn't what I expected. Given that the author is a neurologist, I expected more non-fictional accounts of after-life experiences. What the book does it provide brief thought experiments, on the nature of the divine as well as the after-life. Some of them are thought-provoking, others amusing. If you are interested in simply speculating about alternative ideas of the nature of divinity: could it be a bacterium sized being or a giantess; or of the after-life: is it like suburbia, Sartre's idea that we all have three deaths, or is it different for each person, for example, you will enjoy the book. If the idea of speculating about these issues is disturbing or offensive to you, avoid the book. It doesn't preach, just speculates in a fairly humorous tone....more
I have to say I'm glad I read a library ebook copy, so I didn't spend any money on it. I will also say that I'm glad I did read it. I don't think it'sI have to say I'm glad I read a library ebook copy, so I didn't spend any money on it. I will also say that I'm glad I did read it. I don't think it's quite as bad as some of the reviewers say, but it certainly isn't as good as the professional reviews and interviews led me to expect. It doesn't have the wit of Austen, and James spends way too much time reminding readers we are in 1803--all the references to the servants and the candles, for example. The mystery part was predictable and not up to James's standards. Why I'm glad I read it--to better appreciate both Jane Austen and P.D. James, when she is in top form....more
I finally finished this book. Reading it around my classes, my bookclub books, and my "I'm too tired to pay attention" reading. I did want to pay atte
I finally finished this book. Reading it around my classes, my bookclub books, and my "I'm too tired to pay attention" reading. I did want to pay attention to this book. It is well written, well researched. The last part of the book, which I haven't yet commented on, is the part concerning Little Women and its impact on her and her father. Bronson did use the publicity to enhance his own career, but it seems as if he tried to not capitalize on it exclusively. He did finally find a true purpose and meaning in his life with the establishment of the Concord School of Philosophy, which continues to the present. This section has the deaths of Marmee and May. It does show Louisa travelling in Europe and finding some brief relief for her health. She does find out what the source of her trouble really is. Her father had a stroke which left him an invalid. Louisa had to care for him and for May's daughter Lulu, until finally she had no physical strength to do so. Bronson Alcott's last words to Louisa, the daughter who had been the hardest for him to approve of as a child, were "I am going up. Come with me . . . Come soon." Louisa was in a coma before she could learn of her father's death and died within 40 hours of his death.
The book helps explain the dynamics of parent-child relationships in the nineteenth century. Although this is an extraordinary family, the society around them did not see the relationships as unique or different, so it helps give an insight into the norms of the time.
The last paragraph of the book is an exploration of the work of the biographer:
To the extent that a written page permits knowledge of a different time and departed souls, this book has tried to reveal them. However, as Bronson Alcott learned to his bemusement, the life written is never the same as the life lived. Journals and letters tell much. Biographers can sift the sands as they think wisest. But the bonds that two people share consist also of encouraging words, a reassuring hand on a tired shoulder, fleeting smiles, and soon-forgotten quarrels. These contacts, so indispensable to existence, leave no durable trace. As writers, as reformers, and as inspirations, Bronson and Louisa still exist for us. Yet this existence, on whatever terms we may experience it, is no more than a shadow when measured against the way they existed for each other.
It was an honor to spend time with Matteson's "sifted sands" of the Alcotts....more
Knowing practically nothing about Catherine the Great and her role in Russian and European history, I found this book fascinating. I learned so much.Knowing practically nothing about Catherine the Great and her role in Russian and European history, I found this book fascinating. I learned so much. Massie kept to a chronologically ordered narrative of her life for the most part, but would sometimes have a digression on a topic to help explain background information. One of the most fascinating of these for me was the discussion of serfdom. I didn't realize that serfs were sold, just as American slaves were. Serfs also belonged to the land or to an industry ad there were mining serfs, for example. This made it more difficult to free them....more
This is a meticulous piece of scholarship that aims to be accessible to the general reader interested in language. It reveals the preference for categThis is a meticulous piece of scholarship that aims to be accessible to the general reader interested in language. It reveals the preference for categorical thinking in American higher education, and how much people hear what they want to. It is the kind of research dependent on the ability to write computer programs to analyze large amounts of texts. Pennybacker includes stories about doing the research to keep interest and also to reveal how scholars and professors actually do research. There are links to surveys one can take to find out about pronoun use....more
I learned much about Crockett the politician and how he became anti-Jacksonian. Even his decision to go to the Alamo, rather than joining Houston, wasI learned much about Crockett the politician and how he became anti-Jacksonian. Even his decision to go to the Alamo, rather than joining Houston, was based on his Whig politics. This book openly discusses his mythic self, a version begun in his lifetime, and an honest picture of the man and his flaws and courage. I found myself wishing his political career had become a part of the myth, along with the hunter and the martyr. As a child, I often saw Elizabeth Crockett's grave in Acton, Texas with its tall statue of her looking south to the Alamo. I had always assumed that was where she was in 1836. But she and David had been long estranged, and she came to Texas years later. David struggled with debt his entire life which made him dedicated to making land available to those who would work for it and improve it. His son, John Wesley Crockett, elected to the Congressional seat his father had held finally got his father's Tennessee land bill passed. I wondered how much the Homestead Act owed to the Crocketts. This well researched but very accessible book provides new insight into American culture and its myths....more
This book has an amazing image in it. One of the villains of the book says: "how different things are from the way they seem. Take the canal, there. SThis book has an amazing image in it. One of the villains of the book says: "how different things are from the way they seem. Take the canal, there. Smooth as glass, with those ducks or whatever they are, and the reflection of that white cloud, and the midges going up and down like the bubbles in a bottle of soda water--picture of peace and tranquility, you'd say. But think what's going on beneath the surface, the big fish eating the little ones, and the bugs on the bottom fighting over the bits that float down, and everything covered in slime and mud." He then goes on, "there are two distinct worlds, the world where everything seems grand and straightforward and simple--that that's the world that the majority of people live in, or at least imagine they live in--and then there's the real world, where real things go on." Obviously if one likes mysteries as a genre, it's impossible to ignore the ugliness, violence, and disruption of the world. All mysteries must have something unaccountable, out of the ordinary in them, and mostly they show people's greed and anger. Both real life and fictional murder investigations often uncover the "real world" and bring out information that is hurtful and destructive and often has nothing to do with the crime. This book however seems to glory in piling "slime and mud" over everything. It's about incestuous abuse of a child, it's about wide scale abuse of children that's covered up by Church and state, it's about people being liars and seducers, it's about a young gifted pathologist who tries to be kind and compassionate to a young woman and has a finger deliberately cut off. There is never any triumph of order over disorder, much less "good" over "evil." Our book club had picked this book, and since I dislike starting a series in the middle, I read the first book in the series "Christine Fell" and then this one, skipping the intervening books. I found this one very similar to the first one. ...more