I adore books, preferably the cardboard-paper-thread-glue kind. I devour them, sometimes to gluttonous extremes: I once tried to read seven books at a time. (That was too many.) I can’t help myself. When I look for books on finance I end up with two books on finance, one mystery, one novel, and one book on quantum physics. It’s an addiction but I don’t want a cure. Here’s what I’ve been into lately:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin)
*This was fascinating! The first half of the book consists of birth stories. Their variety showed how idiosyncratic birth is; their similarity showed how general patterns manifest in specific instances (e.g. everyone tends to feel totally overwhelmed during transition, though they respond differently). The second half of the book got into the details of medical studies and policies, emphasizing the differences between a medical model and a midwifery model.
Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son (Anne Lamott)
*I wished this had focused a bit more on the baby. To me it seemed more focused on Lamott. I didn’t like this one very much.
Wool (Hugh Howey)
*Gave up about two-thirds of the way through. The jacket and the beginning chapters make it seem like something earth-shattering is going to happen—or has happened and is going to be discovered. Copping out to read a summary online proves otherwise. Bummer.
Natural Hospital Birth (Cynthia Gabriel)
*So practical! From an unconventional guide to writing a birth plan to a chapter that goes intervention-by-intervention, offering advice on how to avoid them all (while discerning when one or two may be essential), this book is packed with advice I’m sure I will use!
You or Someone Like You (Chandler Burr)
*I have mixed feelings about this book. I was impressed with the author’s literary knowledge–he had to know a great deal to draw out all the connections and craft all the opinions of his protagonist, who, to oversimplify things, leads book clubs. Some of the logical arguments were squirm-inducing and thought-provoking. I was afraid a major relationship in the story was going to tank, but it resolved by the end. A lot happens in this book, so it held my attention even when I was worried it was going to end terribly.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Marisha Pessl)
*According to the librarian who recommended this book to me, people love it. Apparently I am not “people” in this sense. I gave up because, even though I wanted to like the book, I couldn’t. The narrator, Blue Van Meer, is kookily appealing. It’s just that after a while the arbitrary use of capital letters (as in “Bourbon Mood”); the bibliographic asides; and the lack of plot propulsion started to wear on me. The focus remained on a detailed description of a character, Hannah Schneider, whose death was announced at the beginning of the story, leading me to wonder, “When is she going to die? Is this a murder mystery or not?” I thought I’d cheat by looking up the ending, which would help me decide whether it was worth pressing on. What I discovered was that the ending is ambiguous, so I’m glad I didn’t force myself to finish, only to face that letdown.
Valentines (Ted Kooser)
*No one charms me in quite the same way as this old Nebraskan poet. Valentines, book of simple poems, moves between overt romantic moods and more observant or contemplative moods that Kooser manages to bend back to the romantic theme, even if his method is just to throw in the word “heart.”
Pym (Mat Johnson)
*A group of black people from varied stations in life travels to the South Pole and becomes entangled with a race of white snow beasts. I finished this book feeling like I probably missed layers of commentary: I know it’s satirical, but sometimes I was unsure what the point was. It would have been nice to read this one with a book club (or a friend) to have someone to discuss it with.
Parenting at the Speed of Life: 60 Ways to Capture Time With Your Kids (Rick Osborne)
*This little book was a fast read, proving that the author understands his audience! (I’m not a crazy-busy parent yet, but I can see the appeal of these bite-sized essays for that group.) I liked the insights offered here–little things matter to kids, and a parent can incorporate little things into even the most demanding schedule.
Seating Arrangements (Maggie Shipstead)
*I love the way this book is written: the author abounds with original metaphors, even while often limiting herself to sea-inspired language. (I should have jotted down a couple examples but I already returned the book!) I was amazed at the richness and beauty of the prose. On the flip side, the story was dysfunctional/melancholy–a modern-malaise type of thing. I wish there hadn’t been so much of that, but it was the point of the story, so…what could I do? Overall I liked the book.
Never Mind the Joneses (Tim Stafford)
*This book walks parents through fourteen biblical core values like hard work and generosity, giving lots of examples for how each value can be cultivated and expressed in varied “family cultures.” The idea of family culture was new to me but it made sense. (It’s basically “how the Joneses (or whomever) do things,” the unwritten rules of each family. It got Lovey and I talking about the cultures in our families of origin and our current two-person family, and what we want to encourage when we become three-plus. (Soon!)