Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

It has been a long time since I have read a book this good. It is a great medical mystery, feel-good story of a man commiting to serving the poor, inside look at the politics of international health issues, and compelling ethical drama about how we treat the poor in a world of limited resources. (With a list like that, I feel almost guilty mentioning how entertaining it was.) Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

TR: The Last Romantic by H. W. Brands

After 298 pages, I have decided that life is too short to spend time reading mediocre books.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

I don't feel the need to say anything profound here. It was a good book.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Adventures of a Church Historian by Leonard Arrington

I loved this book and recommend it highly. Arrington presided over the Church Archives during the 1970's (the only professional historian to do so), when it was open to scholars. The fruits of his labor (and others on his staff) constitute most of the best Mormon history written to date. He describes his experience trying to write Church history as a Church employee, at a time when some General Authorities loved his work and others disagreed with it, as akin to being a mouse in a room where elephants are dancing. This is a must-read for those interested in Mormon Studies.

How to Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber

I've read Siblings without Rivalry and my reaction to this book was the same: there's something oddly comforting about their confidence that if you just use the magic words, kids will stop going crazy. (I love their little comics.) While I will say that I have reduced tension by using their methods on a few occasions, I think that their approach pretty much requires the dedication of literally learning a new language. And since I am not confident that their method will work, I cannot see myself doing it. Plus, in neither book was I clear as to whether they were giving you a bunch of options or a sequence to follow. I think their take on how kids will respond is too optimistic.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Feminist Introduction to Paul by Sandra Hack Polaski

Here's a sentence I wouldn't have expected to find in a Deseret Book:

If Emerson was right that a stubborn insistence on consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, then Paul's place among the larger intellects of Western thought must be reckoned as secure.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Spin Sisters by Myrna Blyth

Blyth has decided to 'repent' for her role as part of the media directed at women by writing a kiss-and-tell book. That's a questionable formula that Blyth makes worse by not also abandoning the cheery, cheeky writing of women's magazines. It's bad enough in an article about diet tricks but downright intolerable in a book about a serious topic.

Oddly, though, Blyth makes all sorts of really interesting points:
(1) the focus on stress in women's lives seems hideously misplaced in a world where women have more advantages than ever before
(2) the redefinition of 'leisure' as 'private time' and 'luxuries' (think day spas) as 'necessary to life balance'
(3) in the 50s, mothers made their children feel guilty; today, children make their mothers feel guilty
(4) the same Cosmo with a headline about 63 new ways to flirt will also feature an article about the hidden factors that might lead to date rape; the same Glamour with a headline on ways to drive him wild in bed and how to dress for sexess will trump feminist politics

Unfortunately, she doesn't really develop any of these ideas. This book tries to do too much and go in too many different directions. There's some very interesting stuff here, hidden in a big heap of celebrity trash talk and silly prose.
In other words, it's just like a woman's magazine.

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