Summary: In 1895, Annie Londonderry "rode her bicycle" around the world and made the most of her newfound celebrity.
Review: Zheutlin sometimes seemed to be stretching a small amount of material to fill more pages, but overall, this was a fascinating look at the status of women's rights at the turn of the century.
I read (more or less) three books on Saturday's 24-hour readathon. I had every intention of being a good little blogger and writing my reviews right away so I wouldn't get too far behind. Yeah, didn't happen. Reading was much more fun than writing reviews. But I don't want to ignore the books altogether, so I thought I would try some more two sentence reviews.
Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry's Extraordinary by Peter Zheutlin
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
The Big House can be encapsulated in one word: summer. Catching fireflies. Swimming in the ocean. Racing sailboats. Reading on rainy days. Walking everywhere barefoot. Fishing in the early morning. Family. Long days that run together. The sort of summer you remember living as a kid and have had a hard time recapturing as an adult.
George Howe Colt perfectly captures that feeling in The Big House. His family has owned a house (a big one!) on Cape Cod for several generations. Every summer, his extended family would spend a month there, living that idyllic summer life. Reliving those memories is a part of this book.
But mixed in with those memories is the bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye. Colt’s family can’t afford the Big House any longer, and they are being forced to sell it. Colt has come out for one last summer with his wife and children, looking for closure. But how can you say goodbye to such a huge part of your life, the only place you really consider home?
Colt’s The Big House is a book that spans the lifetime of this beloved house. He describes the building of the house, the hurricanes that have hit it, and the good, the bad, and the ugly of the family that has inhabited it for nearly a hundred years.
Anyone can find something to connect with in this book, whether it’s the summer life or the family arguments or the difficulty of saying goodbye. For a little while, you become part of the family and part of the life of the Big House.
I've read a lot of books lately, but haven't written many reviews. In order to catch up a little, I thought I would challenge myself to put my thoughts succinctly. One sentence of summary, one sentence of review. We'll see how well this works. (I tend to be a wordy person. . .)
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown
Because I Said So!: The Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids by Ken Jennings
Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartín Fenollera
Completely unplanned, I happened to read two books set in the 1990s practically back-to-back. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the 90s doesn't seem to be a very common setting. I really enjoy reading books set in the 90s because it reminds me just how far we've come in the past 20 years. Even though I lived through these changes, it's hard to see it in perspective unless we're reminded what life was like back then.
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff is a nonfiction memoir, although it really reads like a novel. Fresh out of grad school, Rakoff lands a job at a literary agency in New York City. But not just any agency - they have the reclusive J.D. Salinger as one of their clients! Through Rakoff's experiences, we get a look not only at how literary agencies worked at the time, but also what life was like in NYC. We run the gamut from one of the fanciest hotels to her little apartment that didn't come with a sink - or heat. Rakoff does a fabulous job of recreating the atmosphere of NYC in the 90s, as well as telling a story full of books and authors.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell is really set on the cusp of the new millennium. Lincoln works for the IT department of a newspaper. It's his job to monitor employees' computer and email usage, which means reading other people's emails. This leads to a slight addiction to reading the emails sent between Beth and Jennifer. Which leads to more than a slight crush on Beth. What exactly are the ethics in a situation like this? (It's also Lincoln's job to prepare for Y2K - remember that panic that was all for absolutely nothing?) In a book that's told half through emails, it's amazing how Rowell can make her characters leap off the page. Just like the YA novels I've read by her, I swear that Beth and Jennifer and Lincoln have to be living their lives somewhere in this world right now.
Rowell leaves you guessing to the very end, but you never stop cheering for these characters who have become your friends.
How does Bill Bryson do it? Every time? I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of work and research time that would go into a book like One Summer: America, 1927. What organizational system would you need to keep track of all of the people and facts and connections between them? How would you choose what and who to talk about when? And how would you do so in a manner that remains interesting – fascinating, even – for more than four hundred pages? And not just fascinating, but humorous. I laughed out loud several times when reading this book.
You would certainly need be a talented writer to pull all this off, and Bill Bryson has proven time and again that that is exactly what he is. One Summer: America, 1927 is no exception. It is well-researched, well-written, and extremely memorable. I’m still spouting facts I learned from it weeks after reading it. I had heard of many of these people and events prior to reading this book, but I had no idea how much happened during the summer of 1927 – or how connected these people and events turned out to be.
I was hooked from page one and delighted until the very end. This book is a fascinating look at life in America in the 1920s. You don’t even have to be a history buff to enjoy it. You just have to like a good story. And Bill Bryson has indeed provided us with one of those once again.
I love the water. Sitting on the beach, watching and listening to it, that is. Being on the water - well, that's another story. Let's just say that I feel much better if I stay on land.
So if I want to experience life on the water, I need to live vicariously. And that's just what reading allows you to do. I recently read two books (very different from each other) about life on a boat. One is a classic, written in Victorian England. The other tells of a more recent adventure.
On the Water: Discovering America in a Rowboat by Nathaniel Stone is an inspiring book. Studying maps as a child, Nat figured out that the eastern United States is essentially an island. And in his 20s, he decided to row around that island - from the Hudson River to the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It was a trip of nearly 6,000 miles, and it was all done by rowing. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it. But Nat found that he liked life on a boat, even turning it into a tent for the second half of his voyage so he didn't have to leave it. More importantly, though, he discovered so many friendly people that cheered him on and helped him out. This book gives you hope for mankind and an uncommon perspective on the United States.
The second boat trip book I read was Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!) by Jerome K. Jerome. I think you can gather the general style simply from that amusing title. Three young British gentlemen (and their dog) decide to escape the daily grind by taking a leisurely boating trip down the Thames. It goes without saying that it ends up being anything but relaxing. Nothing goes right, not even making a good breakfast of scrambled eggs. Their antics are hilarious and full of slapstick humor that will have you laughing out loud. Picture Bertie Wooster on a boat, combined with two of his useless friends and without Jeeves to help him out, and you have a pretty good idea of this book. This is a boat trip that I would certainly not want to participate in, but would greatly enjoy watching the show from the shore.
Whether you are on the water or just the beach this summer, you can experience two boat trips that you may not want to live through - but will definitely enjoy reading about.
I think we can all agree just by looking at the cover that this guy is crazy. Not only is he on a tightrope wire, but he is walking over Niagara Falls, for Pete's sake. I'm afraid of heights, and even living vicariously through him in this book was a bit much for me sometimes.
I'll be honest up front. As far as biographies go, this is not the best one I've ever read. The writing was simple and the font was big. It looked like they were stretching to get it to take up 200 pages. It's not a great work of literature.
And yet I gained such respect for Nik Wallenda in reading his autobiography. The Wallendas are a family of circus performers that goes back seven generations. Nik's great-grandfather, Karl, was the first to make the Wallenda name popular in America. Through hardship and tragedy, the Wallendas have struggled on. And Nik has made it his mission to make the Wallenda family a household name once again. He strives to inspire others to follow their dreams, as he has followed his. And he achieves these goals by walking on wires in really high places. He has gone across Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon (well, technically a smaller, adjacent canyon, but still pretty impressive). Most recently, he has set the record for an incline high-wire walk and walked between two towers in Chicago blindfolded.
Nik's faith in God pervades the book. He is honest about his struggles and his efforts to become a better person. He gives the glory to God for everything that has happened in his life. My favorite example of this was his walk across Niagara Falls. He spent the entire time praising God for this opportunity and His beautiful creation. Because the walk was televised, he had a microphone on so he could occasionally chat with the reporters. He didn't realize until afterwards that the mike was on the entire time, and his prayers had also been broadcast. What an awesome witness.
This review would not be complete without the chance to witness some of his crazy stunts for yourself. So here are 3 videos, showing his walks across Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, as well as the blindfolded walk in Chicago.
Polar bears are my favorite animal, an obsession I think began with the first stuffed animal I received as a baby. I have polar bear calendars and paintings and glass statues. In my opinion, there’s no point in visiting a zoo if they don’t have polar bears. So when I saw the title of this book on the library shelf, I snatched it up immediately.
It was different than I expected, but I wasn’t disappointed in any way. The subtitle is “A family field trip to the Arctic’s Edge in search of adventure, truth, and mini-marshmallows.” The author and his family moved to Churchill, Manitoba for several months one fall (prime polar bear viewing season). So I figured the focus of the book would be on their trials and discoveries as a family. Instead, the focus of the book was on polar bears and the effects of global warming. There are currently two camps of scientists who have rather different opinions of the direness of the situation for polar bears. Unger explores both of these theories in depth, as well as introducing us to the big players in the polar bear tourism industry. It was a more scientific book than I was expecting, but that didn’t make it any less interesting.
That being said, this book probably isn’t for everyone. If you have no interest in polar bears or couldn’t care less about global warming, then you would most likely be bored reading this book. It’s more science than family field trip. But if either of those areas strikes your fancy, you should definitely give Unger’s book a try. It provides insight into this scientific field in an extremely accessible and occasionally humorous way.
This is an amazing story. It has all the makings of a great Hollywood-ized adventure. It's an epic story with events that sometimes seem unbelievable. This would be a great book if it were fiction.
But it's not. It's nonfiction. Which makes it much, much more than simply a "great book."
Unbroken tells the life story of Louis Zamperini - troublemaker, Olympic athlete, Japanese POW, and survivor. Above all, survivor. It follows him through a difficult childhood (he started smoking at age 5) to his discovery of a talent for running (could he have been the first person to run a four-minute mile?). And then World War II begins. Pearl Harbor happens, and Louis is off to war. From there, his adventures become even more unbelievable. It boggles the mind to think that anyone could survive what he survived.
Since I'm posting this review after the movie has come out, a lot of you may already be familiar with the events of Louie's life. I haven't seen the movie yet. I'm sure it's good, but either way, you should still read the book. Laura Hillenbrand is a phenomenal writer who brings Louie's story to nail-biting life. She also puts it in the greater historical context, adding details about the 1936 Olympics or the dangers of being an airman in WWII or how people were affected by being a prisoner of war.
As amazing and terrible as Louie's life was during the war, what really got me was the ending. This is a book about forgiveness. Forgiving those who have done you unspeakable harm. It's only through the power of God that such forgiveness is possible. Louis Zamperini is an incredible person, and Laura Hillenbrand is the perfect author to tell us his story.
Leave it to A.J. Jacobs to try living by all the laws in the Bible for an entire year. Is there anyone else crazy and committed enough to try this? I’ve only read one other book by A.J. Jacobs – The Know-It-All, in which he reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. I really enjoyed his witty narration of working towards that goal and how it affected all aspects of his life. The Know-It-All gave me a taste of what to expect in The Year of Living Biblically.
Jacobs chose to follow the laws of the Bible (mostly) literally for a year. He spent two-thirds of his year focused on the Old Testament laws, which led him to wear a white robe, grow a rather unkempt beard, examine the linen content of his clothes very carefully, and stone an adulterer (more or less). During the last third of the year, he focused on the New Testament, making himself forgive grudges and finding wisdom in raising his son. He also contacted and visited religious leaders on both ends of the Jewish and Christian spectra.
I have to hand it to Jacobs. Since I am a Christian, I viewed The Year of Living Biblically with a bit of trepidation. This book had the potential to be thrown across the room in frustration, but that was never necessary. Jacobs treated all sides and all interpretations with respect. He presented their views fairly, even when he didn’t agree with them. For the most part, he kept his balance on the very thin line that is created whenever religion is involved. And while doing that, he still managed to be amusing and interesting.
I enjoyed reading Jacobs’ journey through the Bible, and I respect the way he treated every person and idea in his book (well, minus the adulterer he stoned). This was a rather unusual way to experience the Bible, but somehow A.J. Jacobs made it work.
My name is Julie, and I own a lot of books. As in, they are stacked on the floor because I've run out of room on the shelves. And those shelves? There are so many books on them that they smile -- not sag; smile. This blog will cover book reviews and all manner of other bookish things.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.