Saturday, May 29, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

So I'm exactly the type of person Kingsolver was talking about in her book. The one who has no idea when certain foods are in season (with the exception of tomatoes). I also do not know where my food is grown and prefer not to think about the lives my meat led before turning up on my plate. Her memoir about eating locally for a year was eye-opening and horizon-broadening to say the least. I am not sure if I can become a truly dedicated locavore, but I do know that my attitudes about what I eat are changing. Since it is blueberry season in this part of the South, I think I will go enjoy lots of them right now.

Major thanks to Kristi for introducing me to this book and giving it to me after she finished her paper for her Spirituality and Ethics of Eating class.

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer

Parasites are terrifying, interesting, and oddly enjoyable to read about. There are ones that castrate crabs (Sacculina carcini), ones that explode red blood cells (Plasmodium falciparum, commonly known as malaria), and ones whose larvae chew their way out of caterpillars (Copidosa floridanum). They have even influenced evolution and human culture. (It is possible that the symbol for medicine, the caduceus, is reminiscent of the cure for guinea worms.)

Zimmer ends the book with a disturbing thought; what if humans are the parasites on the face of the earth? Parasites are only as successful as they can learn to do minimal harm and keep their host alive. As he puts it, "If we want to succeed as parasites, we need to learn from the masters." I could not agree more.

Bonus for anyone who actually is reading this summary: NY Times op-ed contributor recently posted this about parasites. And thanks to Terry for the loan.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memphis in the Twenties by Robert A. Lanier

It is difficult to know where you are going unless you know where you have been. Memphis, it seems, has been just about everywhere, and the Commercial Appeal has covered it all. The Twenties were an interesting time for the city with colorful local characters, a construction boom, massive flooding, segregation, political corruption, and Prohibition. The city also became nationally renowned for having a very high murder rate. (Some things just do not change.) I read this book for work, but it had the added bonus of making me appreciate my quirky city a bit more.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I thought this book was going to be supremely hokey. Supremely, extremely hokey in fact. I could not have been more wrong. Spiritual autobiographies are unique beasts, and Gilbert makes it very clear that what works for her will not work for everyone. However, I too find myself compelled by her desire to find what is best in multiple types of spirituality and combine them into what works. I am not sure what my combination is yet, and I have no plans on abandoning my faith. Nevertheless, I can say with certainty that I no longer believe being a "cafeteria Catholic" is a bad thing...and I really believe God feels the same way.

The picture is of Smathers Beach in Key West, Florida.

Clarence Saunders: The Piggly Wiggly Man by Mike Freeman

OK, this one's for work. I am doing a research project at the museum, and I found this piece derived from the author's thesis in the museum library. There's so much more to Saunders than reading a few panels will let you know. Depending on your perspective, we can either thank him for making our lives more efficient or be angry that he was a leading force in the dehumanization of daily transactions. I guess it depends on if you are more of a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty type.

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn

I probably should not have read this book while traveling.

1.) It is not a beach read.
2.) Flying while reading about how traveling is making a man lose his mind seems twisted.
3.) The whole thing just feels WRONG.

Just from watching the previews, I am pretty sure the movie is only loosely based on the book. I saw the movie described as a comedy-drama, but there is not much overt humor in the book. Road warriors, my fervent wish for you is that you are nothing like Ryan Bingham.

Thanks to Cal for passing this one along.

Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

What I like about this story is the characters' perspectives. They show the intricities involved in life, and, for Rose, the way lies can compound and never fully disappear. It's like spider lines on broken glass; everything can be traced back to one decision.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster

I am just going to say it; this book was not my favorite. On a perfunctory level, I do not like it when the main character has the same name as me. It is distracting. On a (slightly) deeper note, I do not think you have to go to a half-hidden town in Italy to find yourself or learn that women can be more than one dimensional (not that I am sure the leading man ever realized that). I will give Forster another try, but I doubt I will ever read this one again.

Angela, thanks for opening your bookshelf to me again!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Danny, Reuven, Rav Malter, and Reb Saunders came into my life in the guise of assigned reading. That being said, they are the best forced friends that I have ever made. Danny's struggle with his father's silence and his place in his Hasidic community almost broke my heart. At some point we all question, conform, and restructure our lives. Danny and Reuven used their friendship to get through those struggles together. I just hope that I am that type of friend for someone.