I wouldn't necessarily call myself a runner. Sure, I enjoy running, but if we're being honest,This and other reviews at www.topshelftext.blogspot.com!
I wouldn't necessarily call myself a runner. Sure, I enjoy running, but if we're being honest, it's hard and requires a lot of mental energy for me, so it's not always my go-to option for exercise. In the past year or so, I've only gone on a handful of runs, but after reading The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion, I've felt inspired to lace up my sneakers and take another shot at being a "runner." Here's the thing about this book: it's not a typical sports memoir. Catriona Menzies-Pike is not a famous athlete. She's run a handful of marathons and many, many half-marathons, but when you put her running accomplishments in perspective, she's pretty much on par with any other ordinary person who also happens to run marathons.
What makes this memoir interesting is not that it's about running, but that it's written from a feminist perspective. Within the first chapter, I realized that this was one of the most well-written memoirs I've read, and by the time Menzies-Pike mentioned her PhD in Literature, I could tell that she was a voracious reader, and someone of extraordinary intelligence. She not only writes about her own life experiences -- a plane crash that left her orphaned, a downward spiral shortly after, and her discovery that running helped to heal her -- but also writes about the history of women in running.
I learned so much about the discrimination of women in this sport (starting in the time of Ancient Greece and continuing well into the 1960's) and the stories of individual women who dared to run alongside male athletes. One of the most interesting (and disturbing) facts that I learned? Women were often told to avoid running because it would threaten their fertility. Women runners who entered races were often scolded for their selfishness, race organizers certain that to run a marathon was to sacrifice a future as a mother. Now, of course, we know that a woman can be both an athlete and a mother, so it seems absurd to think that this was a huge reason behind the discrimination. There are some spots where I felt the history (or the focus on sexism) was a little drawn out and sluggish, but in the end I came away from this book feeling inspired to run and to encourage the women in my life to pursue dreams that may feel impossible. Her story is proof that dedication bears fruit and I loved her overall message that no matter your size, speed, or distance, when you set out on a run, you are a runner....more
I've been so lucky with the books I've read this year. I already have a bunch of conteThis review & more like it at www.topshelftext.blogspot.com!
I've been so lucky with the books I've read this year. I already have a bunch of contenders for top ten of 2017 -- and it's only April! I'm not a big non-fiction reader, so it's high praise to say that The Radium Girls is on the short list for best reads of 2017. The Radium Girls is, essentially, the story of a great injustice. I'll freely admit that I had no knowledge of the history behind this book before reading, but now that I know better I can't stop relaying the story to anyone willing to listen.
Incredibly well-researched, and told with a narrative tilt that makes for a captivating read, The Radium Girls tells the story of the women who worked in radium-dial factories across the U.S. during World War I and beyond, carefully painting much-needed military clock faces with a luminous paint made from radium. In that time period, radium was being hailed as a miracle element. It's tumor-blasting powers had recently been discovered, and medical professionals and marketing firms were taking advantage of the public's newfound obsession with its health benefits. The military held contracts with these dial-painting factories so that they could ensure their soldiers and pilots could read their clock faces, as the radium-laced paint shone brightly in the dark. That luminous paint earned these women the nickname "the shining girls," and along with it an elevated status in society. It turns out that working in the radium-dial factories was one of the best jobs that a woman could have in that time -- it paid well, there were social benefits, and there didn't appear to be any downsides. That is, until the girls started to get very sick.
Here's my disclaimer for this book: if you have a sensitive disposition, this might not be for you. The descriptions of the girls' suffering was pretty detailed and graphic. I was chatting with my boss about the history behind the book one day and when I finished relaying just a few of those graphic details he asked me why in the wold I wanted to read about that (valid question, I'll admit) and I replied that it was like watching a train wreck -- terrible, but I couldn't look away.
I might have had a sort of fascination with the medical decline of the girls while reading, but what really kept me interested was the girls' quest for justice. I won't give away the big parts of the story, but I will say that if you have an interest in social justice, this is the book for you. These women were faced with incredible pain, deceptive doctors, greedy corporations -- and yet, they kept fighting for their rights. It's largely thanks to them that we have protections against occupational hazards, because while their jobs were touted as the best out there, their work actually poisoned them. Highly recommended (even for those who don't usually read non-fiction like myself), and absolutely a good pick for a book club read, The Radium Girls is one book that you'll want to put on your to-read list this year....more
A few weeks ago I joined a few online book clubs and I'm loving how they've encouraged me to sThis and other reviews at www.topshelftext.blogspot.com!
A few weeks ago I joined a few online book clubs and I'm loving how they've encouraged me to stretch my reading in different directions. Lately I've been sticking to only a few genres and have been working my way through this favorite mystery series, so when Emma Watson's book club elected to read My Life on the Road, I knew it would be out of my comfort zone for a number of reasons. First, I've read very few memoirs, as usually when I venture into non-fiction I tend to pick historical books or biographies of ancient historical figures, so a contemporary memoir was a new field for me. Second, I didn't really know who Gloria Steinem was; I recognized her name but wouldn't have been able to tell you a single thing about her before reading the book. I felt that this made me a great candidate for judging her book, because through my reading experience she was speaking to a first-time audience member.
Though my pace was slower and I wasn't enthralled in the same way that I am when reading fiction, I came away really liking this book. In it, she talks about everything from her childhood to her experiences attending sacred (and secret) Native American ceremonies, to standing by a friend's side as she battled cancer. I found it to be a really full account of a life -- everything from her biggest, career-making moments to the smaller, meaningful moments that happen in the everyday. In this book, I found another great female role model. Steinem tended to tackle feminist causes in places where female voices were barely whispers, planting confidence and passion where it could grow into movements and long-lasting change. Though I am moving into a professional field dominated by women, her movements made me think a lot about the power of a group of people who believe in making change for the benefit of everyone, even those who fight against it.
By far, my favorite section of the book was Steinem's forays into Native American culture. I found her peek into their lives truly fascinating and came away from the book wanting to know more about how the culture is fighting to stay alive in modern times. I'm still searching for a book to help me learn more, so recommendations are welcome!
In the end, I was so glad that I read this book. I felt uplifted by Steinem's words and admired her character. I'd recommend this for any book club who is looking for a non-fiction pick, to women of any age, and to any reader looking to learn more about what it means to be feminist. ...more
Let me just preface this by saying that I am not typically a nonfiction reader. Which, if you're a readeReview posted at www.topshelftext.blogspot.com
Let me just preface this by saying that I am not typically a nonfiction reader. Which, if you're a reader of Top Shelf Text, you probably know by now. I have trouble getting hooked by nonfiction because I crave the types of stories that pull you in on the first page and keep you guessing (or holding your breath) the whole time. So not only is it unusual for me to be writing about a nonfiction book, it's even more rare that I am telling you to go.read.this.book. In the Heart of the Sea is the story of the shipwreck of the whaleship Essex, a captivating tale of survival and tragedy. Essentially, the story goes that the Essex set out from Nantucket in 1820, hoping to make a routine two-year voyage in which the crew would hunt whales. At the time, the oil from whales was a primary source of energy, and the reason why the island of Nantucket was growing richer while the rest of the country grew poorer. After 15 disappointing months of capturing only a few whales, the Essex was attacked by an unusually large sperm whale. There had never before been a report of a whale purposefully attacking a whaleship before, but this whale was clearly angry as he repeatedly slamming his body into the hull of the ship. The Essex sank in less than ten minutes, leaving the crew to drift at sea in three tiny whaling boats. What happens next is heartrending and tragic: starvation, survival, and yes, even cannibalism. Philbrick did an excellent job in both giving his readers information and a feel for how the crew of the Essex felt as they struggled to rescue themselves. The book read like fiction, it was captivating and suspenseful and full of great characters. I also loved how much I learned about the culture of Nantucket in the 19th century, which was brought to life through Philbrick's extensive research. I live in a small seaside town, so I felt a strong connection to these men, who spent their lives at sea, and their families, who spent their days with their eyes trained on the horizon. I would absolutely recommend this to both lovers of fiction and nonfiction, and especially to those who admire Moby Dick, as Herman Melville's early days as a whaler led him to the story of the Essex. His great whale was inspired by the very whale that sunk the Essex, and at least one of his characters was largely inspired by a member of the crew. In the Heart of the Sea is also set to be released as a movie this year! It's decidedly overdramatic, but I will definitely be in line to see it!...more
Empty Mansions is the story of one of America's wealthiest men, W.A. Clark, and his daughter, Huguette.Review posted at www.topshelftext.blogspot.com
Empty Mansions is the story of one of America's wealthiest men, W.A. Clark, and his daughter, Huguette. Dedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, stumbles upon Huguette's story while perusing the real estate listings during his own house hunt. He comes across a beautiful, ornate mansion, unoccupied for decades and up for sale. The property belonged to the daughter of a self-made billionaire and copper industrialist, W. A. Clark, Huguette. Huguette grew up with the same fairytale life as the children of the Vanderbilt and Rockefeller families, but rather than become a household name, she disappeared into obscurity early on in life. The heiress to a staggering fortune and owner of several incredible properties, Huguette limited her social interaction to her employees and select family friends. At the time of her death, at age 104, she had been living in a hospital room for twenty years, despite being in perfect health. After her passing, her family and employees engaged in a high-tension battle for her fortune, arguing blood versus service. Dedman deftly navigates the almost-surreal world of wealth and privilege and draws in readers with his narrative of Huguette's tale.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. There are very few nonfiction stories that can draw me in with the same force as a novel, and this is one of them. I wouldn't hesitate to read it again in the near future, because it was just that good. I recently watched a series on the Smithsonian channel called Million Dollar American Princesses, and although this book had been sitting on my to-read shelf for over a year, loving the Smithsonian's show was the trigger for me to seek this out at my local library. (I'd also recommend the show, for those who are interested.) It's difficult to wrap your head around a fortune like Huguette's, but her story had a lot more to it than just her money. She had an incredible penchant for generosity and a genuine care for others, and was eccentric almost to a fault. I loved reading about her life in general, but it was the descriptions and photos of her properties that had me reading passages out loud to anyone who would listen. The everyday opulence was something that I just could not get over, so I devoured every page with disbelief-- certainly her story had to be the product of someone's imagination? The fact that everything was true only added to my shock, but in the end, I came out with an admiration for Huguette, for her humility and her quirkiness. Were it not for her aversion to notoriety, she could have been one of the biggest celebrities of her time. I'd recommend this for fans of nonfiction, of popular American history, and for anyone interested in learning more about the Gilded Age of the late 19th century....more
John Gilkey is a criminal, but not the kind that you would normally find behind bars in the San QuentinReview posted at www.topshelftext.blogspot.com
John Gilkey is a criminal, but not the kind that you would normally find behind bars in the San Quentin prison. He's a rare book thief, one whose managed to steal a number of books, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, from dealers all over the country. Bartlett, a journalist, hears of his crimes and finds herself immersed in the world of rare book collections as she follows his story, in which priceless copies can be found in the most unexpected places and collectors will pay high dollar for the titles they covet most. While the rare books themselves are alluring, Bartlett discovers that the motivation behind collecting differs from person to person, and while some thiefs may steal to eventually profit, Gilkey steals for the love of books. As Bartlett follows Gilkey in and out of jail and accompanies him as he retraces his steps and relishes his past crimes, she finds that navigating between the rare book dealers themselves and their greatest enemy gives her an awkward, yet fascinating, perspective of the crimes.
While I expected to love reading about rare book theft (as I already love books about art theft), this was not the book I was hoping for, as Gilkey was not the type of thief that should be receiving literary attention (or any attention for that matter). It's clear from the interview excerpts included in the book that Gilkey needs some type of psychological evaluation, but in his many cycles of incarceration and parole, none have been conducted. I initially picked up this book because rare books are fascinating to me, though from the first chapter I read it more from the perspective of a psychology student than from the perspective of a bibliophile. Though I was more disturbed by Gilkey's behavior than interested in his story, I did enjoy the anecdotes about other examples of rare book discoveries or theft. I also learned a lot about the details of the rare book trade itself, which is what kept me reading until the end and will lead me to look for other books on this subject....more