Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review post, 10/7/2012

So were trying an experiment. This weekend we're in Virginia, visiting in-laws (and the Green Valley Book Fair!) and we have not brought the laptop. Instead, we have the tablet. We already know that I can write reviews on the tablet, now we're determining if we can do with the tablet as a primary technology device. So far so good.

Two books this week.

Jill Lepore - The Mansion of Happiness

Lepore is rapidly becoming my favorite historian. She writes a nice clear prose, uses lots of discursive endnotes, and shares my view on what History ought to be - an argument supported by stories. This book is an ambitious project, an attempt to address the history of life itself.

Well, perhaps. More the history of the discussion/ views of American thinkers on the various stages of life from conception to death. Along the way, Lepore tells stories about a series of fascinating characters including Milton Bradley (can't talk about life without talking about Life, the game), E.B. White (childhood as viewed through the creation of children's literature), and the Gilbreths (Cheaper by the Dozen - a discussion of Scientific Management, and how it affected work and adulthood).

Topics in the book include breastfeeding, sex-ed, and cryogenics. Each chapter stands more or less by itself - many were originally essays in The New Yorker, more E.B. White - which makes the book nice and easy to read in chunks. Lepore's chatty style of writing makes the book easy to read in long stretches too - a very nice balance. Additionally, Lepore is one of those authors who, while you are reading her work, you feel compelled to share snippets with whomever is lucky enough to be in the room with you.

In the end,  a delightful book, highly recommended.

Robin McKinley - Sunshine

 An older work, a hold over from Vampire Month last year (February is coming - what should I do this time?). McKinley likes to play with literary conventions, and this book is a good illustration of this. Instead of rapid action, the book slowly unfolds. Instead of front loading a lot of exposition, McKinley unwraps her world building carefully over the course of the novel. Instead of clean resolutions, McKinley leaves her readers with a messy ending. Admittedly, perhaps not for all readers, but if your in the mood for a moody, complex novel about vampires, baking, being human, and staying safe (psychologically, politically, emotionally) in a time of perpetual war (vampires, weres, demons as stand-ins for terrorists?) then this book is for you.