Now that the kiddos are older, and I’ve finished my second foray into college, I wanted to try and read more books for the mere enjoyment of it again. Unfortunately, I have a hard time breaking old routines and needed a little incentive. My incentive was to sign on to the Goodreads 2012 book challenge and then write about the books here. I challenged myself to 35 books this year. That seemed like a reasonable amount to start with. According to Goodreads, I’m right on track with the reading part of my challenge but not with the posting part of the challenge. I’m 3 books behind in that aspect. Rather than write 3 separate posts, I decided to combine them all into one post. It’s an eclectic list of books to review; I’m a bit eclectic in my interests, but maybe that means there is a little something here for everyone. I can’t be the only knitter in the world who is also interested in history and Victorian literature.
Victorians: I heard about this book, Three Men In a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, on NPR in the car one day and it piqued my interest. It sounded silly and light and it did not disappoint. It’s a short little book, written in 1889, about three men and a dog on a boat trip down the Thames. The travelogue is interspersed with funny anecdotes about packing, camping, ladies fashions and river rage (which sounded an awful lot like modern-day road rage). Be cautious when reading this book in public because you will laugh out loud. I didn’t take this into consideration when I decided to read it during my kids’ Tang Soo Do class. Needless to say, I may have embarrassed them when I erupted into fits of laughter while reading about how Uncle Podger hangs a picture.
Patriots: The Whites of Their Eyes by Jill Lepore was recommended to me. It is definitely a timely read with the pending election, the rise and dwindling of the Tea Party, and the GOP’s apparent nod towards insanity. I highly recommend it to anyone who would like some perspective on events past and present. It is a short book and very quick read that is full of thoroughly researched content written in an almost conversational tone. It does not get preachy or reveal any political agenda.
Each chapter switches between the current Tea Party movement, defining moments of the American Revolution, and the Bicentennial Celebration. The juxtaposition of all these stories shows how all sides have misused history to fit their needs. Unlike other books focusing on the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers, Lepore doesn’t romaticize them or try to claim them for her purposes. She lets the founders speak through their letters and other writings. And there are some wonderful quotes, and other little nuggets in this book that often get ignored because they don’t fit with the current narrative. For example, there was one nugget about how Francis Bellamy (the author of the Pledge of Allegiance) once gave a sermon titled “Jesus the Socialist”.
The most important point I took away from the book is that historical fundamentalism and originalism are not solid foundations to govern from. And we must be careful not to commit the error of “historical presentism” by asking what the founders would do because it’s impossible to insert ourselves into their time and have any kind of meaningful insight. Our values are different today; the world is a very different place, and to think that we can relate our values and experiences today to the values and experiences of our founders is faulty logic.
Knitters: I picked up Rachael Heron’s, A Life in Stitches from Amazon during their January Kindle specials. I’ve never read her blog before this book, but I’ll definitely check in on it from now on. The book was a light and easy read. Each essay stands on its own, which makes it a nice book to pick up when you don’t want to, or don’t have time to commit to an entire novel. My only criticism was that I would have liked some of the stories to go into a little more depth. Some of the stories had so much potential, but I felt they stopped as soon as they got interesting. Her blog is also mentioned a lot in the second half of this book. Since I was unfamiliar with her blog when I read the book, I felt like I was missing parts of the some of the stories. (I know that was 2 criticisms.) I enjoyed it and I’d probably recommend it to some of my knitting friends.
Counting Anna Karenina, I’m 4 books into the Goodreads challenge with 31 to go. Tonight I plan on starting The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile.