Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

I really enjoyed this book, even though I think Wolfe's writing style is right on the boundary between charming and annoying.

BTW, this is my 500th post.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This was excellent.

Fordlandia : The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin

This book made just about every "Best of 2009" list. I have no idea why.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I read this out loud to the boys. It is way funnier than any adaptation! The language is a little dense for young kids, however.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

The more that I think about this book, the more I like it. Not only is it a shocking story well-told, but it provides an excellent case study as to why our justice system has the protections that it does. Recommended.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I guess this was kind of lame, but I enjoyed reading it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater

I read this to Truman; it is a very sweet and funny book.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I read this to the boys; I thought it was middling.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I adored this book. (But I wish it had been a little less vulgar.)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

City of Light by Lauren Belfer

This is one of the very best novels I have ever read. Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Calico Bush by Rachel Field

A pre-read for Simon; this is a lovely book. Usually I write discussion questions, but this book doesn't really lend itself to that--it is more experiential. (Kinda reminded me of Little House in that way.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Attaching in Adoption : Practical Tools for Today's Parents by Deborah D. Gray

I think I liked this; won't really know until I have a chance to field test the ideas.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A captivating book with a disappointing ending.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Open House by Elizabeth Berg

Aw, this was unusually good fluff; every inch of it an Oprah book.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The End of Overeating : Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler

I had the same reaction to this book that I had to Supersize Me: all of this talk about food is making me hungry!

More seriously, I had been hearing about this book for months and it was a huge disappointment. Kessler seems shocked--simply shocked!--that companies deliberately put lots of salt, fat, and sugar into food in order to encourage people to overeat.

Well. Imagine that.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Stuart Little by E. B. White

I read this to Truman. Such a sweet story.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

When Everything Changed : The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins

This book was pure awesomeness; I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a nonfiction title as much as I did this one. It is an incredible story, well told, with pitch-perfect anecdotes. Highly, highly recommended.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

A pre-read for Simon. This was a middling book that, I think, has excellent discussion potential for 10-14 year-olds; as will be obvious from the questions, I think there are some troubling aspects to the attitude toward race presented in this book:

--Amos' experience of slavery is almost idyllic. What is your reaction to that? Is it wrong to present a very positive experience of slavery?

--What might be some of the advantages and disadvantages of the vendue system of caring for the poor?

--Was Violate wrong to bury the money? What do you think about how Amos and Violate solved their disagreement?

--Amos says, "it does a man no good to be free until he learns how to live" to explain his decision not to fight against those who captured him. This implies (or does it?) that he "learned how to live" while a slave. Is this accurate? Would he, as a young man in Africa, have thought that he didn't know how to live when he was a prince and therefore should be enslaved until he figured it out?

--Amos refers to Polly's poverty as a kind of slavery. Do you agree?

--Amos seems completely devoted to freeing women. Why?

--Amos responds humbly and patiently to racist insults. Was this the best policy?

--Would you have disbursed your money in the same way that Amos did?

--This book was written in 1950. In what ways do you think it reflects racial attitudes of that time?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Making of a Mormon Apostle: The Story of Rudger Clawson by David S. Hoopes

This was very interesting: you just can't beat post-second-manifesto polygamy and mob murder.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

Interesting, and sad.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla

This was a pre-read for Simon. I didn't like it at all. I couldn't tell if the writing was stilted in an effort to keep it simple or because it reflected the author's perception of what a story about Native Americans should read like, but in any case it felt like reading Dick and Jane.

I've had several strike-outs with Simon's books this year. I didn't get very far with Walk the World's Rim or The King's Fifth, either.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

You know, The DaVinci Code was at least entertainingly stupid, but this was just stupidly stupid.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla

I read this out loud to the boys. I thought it was mediocre but they seemed to like it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Wow. This book was superb. Highly recommended. (I also really liked his Mountains Beyond Mountains.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

I read this to Truman. meh.

A Leaf In The Bitter Wind by Ting-Xing Ye

I almost didn't read this because I thought the title and the cover were cheesy, but it was a very good book. Of course, I'm not sure you can write a bad autobiography if you lived in Maoist China--there's too much good material. And this one even had a couple of very unexpected twists at the end. Recommended. (Other excellent books in this genre: Wild Swans and Life and Death in Shanghai.)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

I read this to Truman. I think it is nearly perfect.

A sidenote: I used to wonder if I would detest rereading chapter books to my younger kids since I never re-read books on my own. I don't. I love it.

A final note: This is not the same cover as our book. I couldn't find that cover; it is the one I bought from Scholastic Books when I was in the first grade. I can remember taking this book on the boat when I was a kid. The spine is completely gone and the pages are loose.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This is the best novel that I have read since Brooks' People of the Book . . . The Help completely knocked my socks off. Go read it!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Examination by Malcolm Bosse

This was a pre-read for Simon and it was excellent--a great plot and lots of wonderful detail about Chinese history and culture.

It occurred to me that I probably need to add a little detail to my pre-read reviews so I have more to work from when subsequent children read the book in future years. (I wish I had thought of this two years ago . . .)

--Before reading: Discuss Confucianism and the Chinese imperial exam system.
--Discuss: Differences and similarities between Hong and Chen.
--Discuss: What should they have done when they encountered the woman, her daughter, and the men starving in the village?
--Discuss: How did the principles of Confucianism impact the choices various people made in this book?
--Discuss: What were the advantages and disadvantages of the exam system for Chinese society?
--Discuss: What is your opinion of the choices that Hong made throughout the book and at the end of the book?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

I listened to this with the boys; it was very good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker

As is usually the case with me, I was completely enthralled by a novel and utterly disappointed with its ending. Is it me--or is it novels? I rarely used to read novels but now turn to them when my reading time needs to be relatively fluffy to balance out my other projects. Maybe I just need to stick with fluffy non-fiction?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Story of Science : Newton at the Center by Joy Hakim

Simon will be reading this during this school year; I preread so I could write discussion questions. This series is fantastic (although slightly misnamed as there will be a separate series on geology and biology)--everyone should know the history of science and these books are physically beautiful and so interesting. I love the way she integrates art, politics, and science, as well as the personal life stories of the scientists. Highly recommended for 10+ and adults.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I read this out loud to Truman; it was more delightful than I had remembered. (This particular book is the one that I bought from the Scholastic catalog when I was in the first grade.)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sudden Sea : The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti

I loved this. I didn't realize when I bought it that it was primarily about Rhode Island--it made me all nostalgic.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

I listened to this with the boys. It was everything you could want in a YA historical novel: a great plot and lots of wonderful historical detail. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

I really liked this. It would provide great discussion material for book groups.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton De Trevino

I read this out loud to the boys. It was middling.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Widow's War by Sally Gunning

Started out very strong and then kind of limped to a close.

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