There have been a couple days lately where my toddler will only nap while cuddled in my lap (I'm not complaining completely, though, because these days are numbered as both my belly gets bigger and as we prepare for having a newborn in the house), so it's been a good excuse to read books. Plus, there are tons of Summer Reading Lists across the internet, so naturally, I need to read.Also, the library's Summer Reading Program is in full swing, giving me more of an excuse to read as well. Can I complete the program in the first month? Maybe-I'm almost there! Anyways, I've been reading lots of fascinating books lately. And I have a ton of books on hold that will eventually come to me through the library, so expect more book reviews in the near future ;)
Broad Band, by Claire Evans.
This was a fascinating and engaging read about the instrumental role that women have had with computer technologies and the internet. It dove deep into the topic, and I really liked how it talked about female computers in the 19th century-it seems that we often don't think of female computers until the 1940s and 1950s! I also found it interesting/ironic/thought-provoking that it was in the 1960s/1970s when women who worked with computers were pushed to the backburner and not allowed to have as many development jobs, but were instead made to simply do data entry-type stuff. Did that Sexual Revolution really liberate women? Perhaps the Sexual Revolution had little effect on the role of female computer scientists, but the timing of it all does make me wonder...anyways, I quite enjoyed this book, and I appreciated that it was not dense and made a very scientific topic approachable. I didn't agree with all of the commentary in the book, but I did agree with a lot that was said in here and think that it's a pretty good read, especially since making STEM appeal to girls is such a hot topic right now.
Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card.
This was an an interesting fantasy novel which begins with a young Russian boy, Ivan, stumbling across a maiden who is asleep on a pedestal in the woods. Frightened by an unseen, evil-seeming force, Ivan ran away-but over the years, this woman kept coming back to him. The story picks up years later, as Ivan lives in modern-day America as a college graduate student. He finds himself going back to that forest of his childhood, waking the maiden, and seeing his life turn all topsy-turvy as magic, an ancient realm, and everything that he knows collide. The writing was excellent (as I would expect from Orson Scott Card), and the story was really intriguing. I'm pretty sure I read this in two days or less. There were some sex references so I wouldn't give this book to kids. The aspect of this book that may cause some people to pause is the presence of magic, Judaism, and Christianity in the modern world. Even though I usually don't delve much into magic and fantasy writings, I was fairly comfortable with a lot of this book-though when a "good" character started using a pentagram at one point, I did skim/skip a little bit. I'm just not completely at ease with the notion of "good" characters using witchcraft, even if it's a fictional story. But I know that a lot of people don't have a problem with it, just thought I'd mention it for those interested or concerned :) It was a fascinating read, and Orson Scott Card is definitely a skilled author!
Nice Try, Jane Sinner, by Lianne Oelke.
Jane Sinner was kicked out of high school and is trying to deal with the aftermath of a crisis. She has a well-meaning family, but the snarky, not-very-religious-teen just doesn't relate well to her ultra-sympathetic Christian parents. So, Jane takes matters into her own hands and signs up for a low-budget, student-run reality TV show called House of Orange, where she lives in a house with college students (she lies about her age on the application) and completes various challenges. This book is lighthearted and extremely fun to read (especially on a rainy day), but there was still a good message about family and moving on tucked within the pages. I really enjoyed reading it, though there was lots of bad language (including several f-words), some crass references, and one sex scene. I love the premise and even though the language was a bit much for me, I liked the story and found the characters really entertaining! (the book does start out a little slow, but once it picks up I found it hard to put down)
The Actor's Life: a Survival Guide, by Jenna Fischer.
I love The Office, so naturally, I just had to pick up this book to learn more about the women who played Pam. However, even if you do not watch The Office, this book can still be quite enjoyable, because instead of being a memoir about her experiences with Steve Carell & Co., The Actor's Life is, quite simply, about what Fischer did-and is doing-as an actress; and it offers encouragement to budding actors and actresses. She walks the reader through her process of moving through childhood, college, and winding up in Hollywood. She gives a ton of advice for people who want to be actors, recommending various locations, courses, and what to look for in a good headshot. I knew next to nothing about what it actually takes to be an actor, so I found Fischer's thoughts and reflections fascinating! Plus, she inserted cool stories from her personal life about the process. And yes, she talked a couple times about incidents from The Office. I found a lot of what she said about being an actor applicable to other artistic endeavors (like writing) and I love how she mentioned that even though she had a highly successful stint with The Office, she still gets rejections and has to work really, really hard to do what she loves as an actress. This was a great book, and I recommend it!
The Wizard of Oz, and Other Narcissists, by Eleanor Payson.
This book was recommended to me by my counselor, and oh man. It's compact, but it was so good. It talks about people who display varying levels of narcissism (and specifically goes into people who have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder), and it discusses different ways to cope with family, friends, and coworkers who have some level of NPD. I don't think this book is quite as thorough as it could have been, and the Wizard of Oz metaphor wasn't carried through as much as I wanted it to, but still, this book is a great start. I highly recommend reading it. Even if you don't know anyone who experiences some level of narcissism (though I'm guessing that most of us know at least one person who displays some narcissistic traits), I think this book can be a good self-examination to make sure that we don't act in narcissistic, self-serving ways to an unhealthy degree.
On Becoming Babywise, by Gary Ezzo.
This book has been condemned by a lot of people I know, especially "good Catholic moms," so I've always steered clear of it. HOWEVER, two people have recommended it to me (incidentally, both are Catholic moms), and as I've been thinking about/dreading for postpartum in a few months, I decided to pick up this book. I am so thankful I did. There are many ways to parent, and many styles of mothering appeal to the many different women in this beautiful world. This book was so helpful and validating for me because quite often, I haven't been able to fully embrace what ladies around me often portray as "the" way to mother. And this book fits with my personality, needs and desires so much better than what a lot of my family and friends have done. I flat-out disagree with some parts of this book, but there was a lot in here that I loved (for instance, the book begins by talking about the importance of marriage, because if you want secure, happy, healthy children, you need to foster your marriage). And honestly, I know a common complaint people have about this book is that it encourages you to "starve" your children and "not be attentive to their needs"-but this book actually talks about the importance of both feeding your child (even to the point of waking your child up to eat, which I don't think I've ever done) and paying close attention to what he or she needs. I'm so glad that I read this book, after reading and discussing elements of it with both a friend, my husband, and my midwife, I am much more excited and empowered to enter postpartum in a few months!
I love the Little House on the Prairie books. I read them repeatedly as a child, my 8 year old birthday party was Little House themed, and I still re-read the books as a way to cozy up and relax before bedtime. So naturally, I knew that I had to read this book, in which McClure discusses her obsession with all things Little House (to the point of buying her own butter churn). She embarks on an adventure to visit different Little House homesites, and I loved reading about her journeys. I also found it interesting that often, the stereotypical Little House fans are often conservative, Christian, homeschooling families, and McClure definitely does not fit that image. So her view of religious folk in this book may seem a bit cynical and eye-rolley (and if you're into End Times preparedness, you may be offended by what she says), but I did think it was interesting to hear from her perspective. I really enjoyed this, and if you are also a fan of Little House (and aren't afraid to look at the actual historical side of things and not just the fiction books) I recommend that you pick this up!
A Stash of One's Own, by Clara Parkes.
This was a delightful anthology, all about knitting! And specifically, about the knitting stash. I picked up this book especially because my knitting/crafting/fabric stash is the prominent part of my life that is not organized or minimized in any way, and I'd like to remedy this. I really enjoyed the wide range of experiences provided in this anthology-from the "keep a huge stash!" people to the "I don't own a stash and I'm a minimalist" people-and I thought there were a lot of fun reflections on the meaning that one's personal stash of yarn and knitting needles can take on. Very fun, easy read, and I recommend it!
Montessori from the Start, by Paula Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen.
I've always associated the Montessori Method with kids that are around preschool-aged. This book, however, focuses on children from birth-3 years old. It talks about child development, learning, and what we can do to teach our child in this age range, all in light of the Montessori Method. There was a lot of really interesting information in here, and I enjoyed reading about this educational method and theory that I wasn't too familiar with. I've also been interested in reading up on educational theories since I'm currently homeschooling our toddler (and hope to do so in the future). I did learn some good things, and I've been more mindful about teaching my toddler instead of just doing things for him. Reading this book, I started to get the vibe that as great as the Montessori stuff is, I'm not sure that it's quite my cup of tea, and parts of this book have become a bit of a running joke between my husband and I. But still, really interesting read, and if you're at all curious about early child development and education, pick it up!
Are you reading anything interesting this summer? I'm always looking for recommendations, so let me know what else I need to add to my list!