Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Mummy Congress by Heather Pringle

Exceptionally intriguing, The Mummy Congress ranks as one of the best books that I have read this year. It reads more like a collection of essays on different topics, all somehow related to the practice of mummification. I honestly don't want to describe it too much for fear that I won't do it justice, but I will say that her picture of Chilean women digging through handfuls of sand for pigment with which to paint their deceased children seven thousand years ago will probably be with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dr. Spock: An American Life by Thomas Maier

It is hard to overestimate Dr. Spock's influence--he taught all those hands how to rock the cradle. Maier's book did an excellent job of exploring his life and exploding the myth of his "permissiveness" (which I had always believed accurate but now see as a political attack raised not by his book but by his opposition to the Vietnam war before it was cool). Maier deftly elucidates the failures of Spock's personal life in a way that makes him seem not a hypocrite but rather a flawed man. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Didn't live up to the hype ("Best mystery of the decade"--Stephen King) and was kinda vulgar. Ugh.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate diCamillo

I read this to the boys and we all adored it--a book nearly perfect in every way. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Young Joseph Williams Trilogy by Dean Hughes

I read these to the boys because they were the only juvenile historical fiction about Church history that I could find. They weren't that good: the plots plodded, the characterization was flat, the writing was lame. The third volume was slightly better in that it took on some heavy issues of Mormon culpability in Missouri (my five year old knows about Danite excesses now), but I still can't recommend these.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

I needed some mind candy on Sunday; this fit the bill.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger

When the author was a baby, the Boston Strangler worked in his home. (Fortunately, his mother ignored his invitation to join him in the basement.) This book is fascinating (and, of course, unpleasantly graphic at certain points)--nothing like a good mystery.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

To me, novels either "work" or they don't: they either succeed in creating a world--or they don't. This one worked and it was a joy to read even though the topic was horrific and the details graphic. (The only sour note was the revelation at the end of the rector's character.) This is the kind of book that would lead to excellent book group discussions (although it might have a smidge too much sex and violence for some book groups). Recommended.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Erik Larson is one of my all-time favorite writers: Isaac's Storm and The Devil in the White City rank along with Thunderstruck as three of the best non-fiction books I have encountered. I did think the pacing was a little off on this one, but it was still very good.

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