Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On My Nightstand and the Floor and the Coffee Table

...are all the books I'm currently reading. I haven't done an "On My Nightstand" post (modeled on these by Mental Multivitamin) for a long time. Today I'm just blogging about why I'm reading it (do you also find yourself using "blog" as a verb in your daily life? Scary, isn't it?), and then turning to a random page and taking a quote from the book.


The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
, by Kate DiCamillo. This is part of a very enjoyable group read and blog about the Newbery medal winners from 1924 to today (see my review of The Tale here). It's been wonderful re-discovering children's literature with my kids, and The Tale of Despereaux is something that shouldn't be missed by adults who love fairy tales.

"Reader, do you recall the word "perfidy"? As our story progresses, "perfidy" becomes an ever more appropriate word, doesn't it?" (p. 69)

The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones - I haven't started this one yet, but it's by the author of Lost in Translation, and it's about food. And it has an absolutely gorgeous cover. How bad could it be?

"This past year his topic had been a single phrase: xia guanzi, to eat out, to go down to a restaurant. In an elegant sixty-minute loop he conjured all of xia guanzi's meanings over the last eighty years. At first it meant something positive and exciting - pleasure and company, good food." (p. 85)

The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? by Leslie Bennetts. This is a book that's been in the news a lot lately, and a topic of much discussion in my Mothers & More group, a national advocacy and support group for mothers.

"To many observers, the most heartbreaking thing is that they're choosing such vulnerability voluntarily. "Women's impoverishment is nothing new, but in the past, women didn't have other options," observes sociologist Kathleen Gerson. "Now they do." " (p. 103)

House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, by Craig Childs, is filled beautiful names (and places): Chaco Canyon, Hovenweep, Kinishba, Homol'ovi, Grasshopper Pueblo, Mesa Verde. It also has enough great feasts, rituals, "roads", awe-inspiring architecture, drought, migration, warfare, cannibalism, corn, prehistoric ecology and land management, and ground water to satisfy me (as well as a very good index). This would be a wonderful book to read before visiting late prehistoric sites in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico, which were familiar to me but I'm afraid not so well-known to most Americans. Childs does a very good job of explaining a lot of the things that southwestern archaeologists spend their time pondering with a minimum of jargon.

"The word roads is probably a misnomer. Although many are wide enough to handle multiple lanes of car traffic and they are outlined into the distance by curbs of rock and broken pottery, they seem too large for mere transportation. Instead they were likely formal processions, long public spaces akin to the National Mall in Washington, D.C." (p. 57)

Quit It, by Marcia Byalick - another book about Tourette's Syndrome. Last month I reviewed I Can't Stop! by Holly L. Niner (aimed at younger kids) rather critically, and I was happy that Byalick's book avoided so many of the things that I found lacking in Niner's book. Some of this is undoubtedly because Quit It is aimed at older kids - the main character, Carrie, is starting 7th grade. Carrie's life is complicated, and TS is only one of her problems. Humorous, engaging, and not overly preachy, I think this is an excellent book for kids aged 11 and up.

"You could almost smell that the end of the school year was approaching. Maybe it was the brightness of the sunlight, or the fact there were no more awful multiple-choice tests, or simply that everyone except Clyde wore shorts to school." (p. 93)

Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America, by Elliot Jaspin - a grab from the new release shelf, this is turning out to be a very compelling and heartbreaking collection of fine-grained histories of several different communities where African-Americans were driven out by vicious mobs. Most of the events covered took place in the early 1900's, but unlike the lynchings and race riots in this period, the (slightly) less deadly but very far-reaching "racial cleansing" that took place in many places (including Indiana, Missouri, Texas, and Kentucky) is not as commonly known.

"Within minutes the gunfire died away. The mob had used up all its ammunition. Uncertain of what to do next, the rioters fell back to Commercial Street. As the mob milled about, a few men trotted up Walnut Street to the state armory next door to the city jail and sized the rifles and ammunition - by one estimate a thousand rounds - that had been loaned to the posses the day before." (p. 75, on Pierce City, Missouri).


Sandy D. said...

Marcia Byalick's "Quit It" also deals very sensitively and yet powerfully with OCD and peer pressure.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I'll have to look at House of Rain... There was an article in High Country News (available online) about how the canal system in Phoenix is being built in almost the exact same places that the previous indigenous culture had built its canals. Which was interesting to me, since I didn't know that Native Americans had built canals.

Also, I can't WAIT for my kids to be ready for chapter books!