Reader's Digest - 2010 books 7-10

I've done a lot of reading since I last updated my reading (b)log, so I thought I'd do a quick catch up.

I blew through books 2 and 3 in the Alexander McCall Smith No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series. Books 2 and 3, entitled Tears of the Giraffe, and Morality for Beautiful Girls, respectively, were the laid back but well-written reads I expected them to be. The only issue I have with this series, and most series, to be honest, is the need to repeat certain language and points in every book. This feature of the series novel reminds me of the television drama, where you are forced to see the 'Last time on____' bit in the beginning. The repetition gets a bit old, but I understand that it is somewhat needed in order to inform and hook readers who may be picking up a series in the middle. My annoyance with this, however, it minimal, and in no way discourages me from continuing to read these books - they're a nice compliment to more challenging reads.

My big read the last month was Age of Wonder, by Richard Holmes.

I took my time with this book because it was chocked full of information, and wonderful footnotes. Age of Wonder chronicles the period of Romantic scientific discovery, spanning from Joseph Banks's explorations of Tahiti, to the first human flight in balloons, to the revolutionizing of astronomy by the Herschels and their vastly improved telescopes, all the way on to Davy changing (almost inventing) the role of the career scientist with his activities in chemistry research. The book's timeline is roughly bound together by tying the careers of several prominent European (though mainly UK) scientists to the life and work of Banks with the Royal Society from the late 18th to early 19th century. This fascinating read sets the stage for readers to conduct further readings into the influences of Charles Darwin and his contemporaries by illustrating how the Romantic generation prepared the world to the further scientific revolutions to come.
What struck me most about this book was how rapidly the world was turned upside down by things we now take for granted: flight, harnessing electricity, the discovery of fundamental elements and the dispelling of the idea of 4 essential elemental forces in the world, toying with concepts of human energy/soul/reanimation. This petri dish of inquiring minds not only brought forth the Darwins, it also created the Shelleys and their Frankensteins. Scientific concepts we now take for granted were once exciting, bold, and, very often, the subject of much fear. This is an accessible (though a bit long) read for the lay; not at all full of jargon. I definitely would recommend.

The final book I finished for this installment was Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan. I can't say I formed a definite opinion of this book. It was engaging enough that I blew through it in a day, but I can't say if I liked or disliked it. It was just a decent quick read. The premise is the telling of a series of events that took place in the rural south in post World War Two America from various different characters' view points. This was a well-written piece, but sadly a bit predictable, considering the subject matter. I went in expecting to be shocked and a little depressed, and it did happen, despite the author's attempt to make some of the ending a bit more positive.

Now, on to the next!

Overheard in the Library

This phone call just occurred behind me in the computer lab:

Him: Hey sweetheart
Him: What's that? You want to kiss me?
(me getting ready to crack down on some phone nookie)
Him: You went Poo Poo!? In the Potty!?
Him: OOOOh that's great! That's the best news I've heard all day!

Totally cute and funny at the same time.


Book 6 - The Good Soldiers - David Finkel

I chose this book for my library's book discussion group because there is a heavy military focus among the club's members, and because the book had been getting great reviews. This was pretty far outside the scope of my normal interests, so I appreciated the challenge of expanding my reading repertoire. The Good Soldiers does a wonderful job of profiling the soldiers in a very impartial, but at the same time analytical way - not taking any sort of stance (hard to do in war writing, especially in a controversial war such as Iraq), but also not flinching away from hard truths.
This book is at times uplifting, punishing, informative, and infuriating, either individually as you read the different episodes, or as the overall vibe that you get when reflecting on the work as a whole. I think that everyone should give it a try; one thing it really drove home is how little Americans know about what is going on in Iraq. It's rather disturbing how the war in Iraq has become a very silent and almost invisible conflict due to a very sad lack of news coverage - this book puts things into perspective and acts very effectively as a wake up call. What is seen on TV aren't stats and events - they are human lives and futures. Have a read - reacquaint yourself with what is going on with our troops and the people they have been sent to fight, assist, and try to understand (no small task, as we've seen). Regardless of your thoughts on the war, this book is a very informative read.


Small Change

I guess March needs to be the month of small changes rather than sweeping reform. I already know what I should be doing, now I need to tweak my lifestyle to the point where I am actually doing those things. It seems silly, and a little sad, that I need to make more of an effort to get out of my desk chair during my work day, but it's now more than obvious how bad my sedentary profession is on my long-term health goals. So now it's stairs whenever possible - and yes that means going four floors, not just the one floor trips - and visiting people's offices rather than calling them. It means getting off my bus a stop early to go an extra couple blocks.

This month also means really keeping an eye on balancing what I eat. For the longest time I've been aware that I don't really eat horrendous things, but I need to do better eating a good balance of the healthy things I tend to seek out. This also means committing to introducing more protein in my diet. I have cut out the caffeine, and really have shit for energy - now that my body isn't getting 'energy' from false sources like sugar and caffeine, I need to be more conscious of what I'm doing to get the fuel I need.

Finally, as one big step, I have committed to three races for this year (so far, we'll see): two shorties and one long. First up is the Mother's Day Breast Cancer Network of Strength event with Karen, Andrew, and Dan. Donations are most welcome, for this and my other fund raising event, the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon. I'll be running as part of Team PAWS to raise money and awareness for Chicago's homeless dog and cat populations. The non-get-your-credit-card-out race that I'm doing, with Dan, is the Warrior Dash, which sounds like all kinds of fun.

So, for now it's stand at attention, and get those nightly (at least when there isn't hockey) fitness runs in to take off the 'I'm lazy' weight I put on since my last half marathon. After that, it'll be time to start training for real.