Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World by Aja Raden, 2015
From the book jacket: What makes a stone a jewel? What makes a jewel priceless? And why do we covet expensive jewelry?
My husband received this for his birthday, and I got to it first. I'd recommend it. Learn about jewels throughout history as well as the science, in a very entertaining style.
I'm reading William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-1972. It's a nearly 1400-page tome, copyright 1974. I bought it at a library book sale about 25 years ago and am finally getting around to reading it.
I'd recommend it in the way I'd recommend a 1974 Lincoln Town Car. It's big and ponderous and outdated, but also a fascinating and impressive time capsule.
The book opens near the worst of The Great Depression in 1932 and destitute World War I veterans and their families are converging on Washington D.C. to pressure the government to speed up payment of a bonus that they had been promised. President Hoover is overwhelmed by the economic collapse and doesn't know what to do for the country or the veterans. Generals Douglas McArthur and George Patton are dispatched to quell the threat to order and safety allegedly posed by the raggedy "Bonus Army." The result isn't pretty.
Manchester—probably best known as one of the early biographers of President Kennedy—takes us on a sometimes densely-written but often memorable romp through American politics, wars, technological achievements, and popular culture.
I feel like I've been reading it forever and I'm not quite through the Truman Administration. Here's something I ran into the other day that left me dumbfounded: pages 559-566 are missing in my book, apparently due to a printing or binding error. When our library reopens, I'll have to see if it has a complete copy.
I'm Aisha, new faculty in the library and so of course I wanted to share what I'm reading! A few things but one that is ongoing and revisited every few months: All About Love by bell hooks.
I highly recommend this for anyone who, like me, is constantly rethinking and considering the relationships and people that form our personal and professional communities. bell hooks is a deeply thoughtful and clear writer who really connects the ways in which love permeates our understanding of self, family, and society. I think of it as a sort of therapy in book form.
The Sisters Weiss, by Naomi Ragen: the book would be of particular interest to women and Jews. A young woman runs away from her ultra-religious Jewish home the night before her arranged marriage. She becomes a famous photographer. Fast forward 40 years, and her sister's daughter runs away from home and finds her cousin to help her get away from the religious environment. The conflict between a religious community and the outside world is interesting. The way women wanting independence from the structured world is engaging. I found it a page-turner.
The Real Jane Austen: a Life in Small Thing, by Paula Byrne: it's a wonderful biography of Jane Austen and description of her novels. Rather than just give a chronological story of Austen's life, we learn about Austen's time and family based on the items that would have been in her life and then where they appear in the novels. It's a fascinating look at England at the turn of the 18th century, the Austen family, and the novels. The writing is extremely good and what might seem boring keeps my attention throughout.
I’m reading The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground, a memoir by Justus Rosenberg.
It is the autobiography of a young Polish Jew from Danzig (today's Gdansk) who was sent to Paris by his parents prior to the outbreak of World War II for his safety. He eventually worked for the French Resistance to assist the Allies in liberating France from the Nazis. This story is very meaningful for me as a Jew, an undergrad French major, as a former American student who lived there on a Junior Year Abroad, a francophone, and a lifelong francophile. Only in recent years have I developed an interest in what actually happened in Paris during the war... both in reading books like this and in personal visits to locations where the round ups and atrocities occurred in Paris and other parts of France. High quality writing.
I highly recommend Arguing with Zombies by Paul Krugman. This book is a collection of his essays on economics arranged, in order of topic, from the early 2000s to the present. The book traces decision-making about Tax Cuts, the ACA, Social Security and other social policies that have been made through the influence of "zombie" ideas, ideas that won't die although they have no real evidence to support them and mostly benefit the wealthiest in society. I'm finding the economics in the book easy to understand and am reminded of the political machinations of the past that I had didn't know or had forgotten but are worth knowing about before the upcoming election.
Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society by Fatima Mernissi
I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in understanding the male-female dynamics in the Muslim world, especially in Morocco. The book is a classic study of Islamic origins of Moroccan laws and social norms. In the book, she argues that the present conservative wave against women in the Muslim world is a defense against recent profound changes in sex roles and in perceptions of sexual identity.
I am reading The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won by Victor Davis Hanson. I recommend it to anyone with previous knowledge of WWII.
Instead of chronological battlefield narratives, it is an analysis on the overall strategy – production, logistics, time, and economics. The first few chapters are split into "Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and People," for instance. Looking at it from these perspectives, you get a real sense of why WWII happened as it did.
I am reading Black is the Body by Emily Bernard. A book review is here.
I would recommend it. Overall it is excellent writing, interesting, and insightful.
It is highly autobiographical and the author Dr. Emily Bernard, a professor at the University of Vermont, discusses her life, race, blackness, parenthood, and academia. It is a good read as well as an important voice. It is one of the best books I've read in 2020.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Divide everything in life into three categories:
Things you have power over/Things you can influence/Things you have no control over
Give 100% to the first, 100% to the second without confusing it with number one, and as for the third: Don't ever watch the news.
House of Chains by Steven Erikson
No, this book isn’t about life in quarantine. It’s Book 4 in The Malazan Book of the Fallen fantasy series. Only six more books to go, and these are massive tomes! And yes, he’s completed the main series for any of you Song of Ice and Fire fans who have been waiting forever for GRRM to finish his work. If you like fantasy with so many characters and plots that you have no idea what is going on, this is a great read. Really great world building and a cool magic system. Btw, start with Book One, Gardens of the Moon.
Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
The book cover sums it up best, “The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress.” Pinker loves data, so get ready for lots of graphs.
I am reading The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne.
An odyssey that at times veers toward dark comedy, this novel follows Cyril Avery starting with his controversial origin in Ireland in 1945 and his adoption by an eccentric, unloving couple. As a gay man, Cyril navigates through his life struggling to become his authentic self in the face of place and circumstance. The story is full of surprise chance encounters with people from Cyril's past and hard lessons learned in Cyril's personal relationships. This book has me laughing in one turn and crying the next. Cyril isn't perfect, but he is a sympathetic character, and I can't help but root for him.
Themes: LGBTQ, AIDS, adoption, friendship, coming-of-age.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, aside from being my favorite book of 2020, is a powerful tale of guilt, revenge, survival, and love. This is a horror novel, so it has gruesome moments that are definitely not for the squeamish, but every bit of horror is carefully placed and necessary. The story follows a group of young men who grew up on the reservation and went hunting where they were not supposed to; now, ten years later, they are pursued by the vengeful ghost of the elk they killed. Highly, highly recommended.
Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia is an enthralling take on the genre, essentially taking all of your classic Gothic tropes and transplanting them to a mountain town in Mexico. Young socialite Noemí goes to the decaying High Place where her cousin, who married into the aristocratic European family who lives there, is psychologically unwell. While there, Noemí learns the frightening secrets of the family and the Gloom that haunts the house. Highly recommended.
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