There’s nothing quite as exciting to a librarian as Banned Books Week. As sad as I am that books are still being challenged having a week dedicated to banned books allows us to have a dialogue. Most people don’t realize that last month someone tried to get The Handmaid’s Tale removed from schools, or that Eleanor and Park is being challenged in another school district right now.
I already reviewed The Bookman’s Tale a few weeks ago but now for something completely different…a video! I had the good fortune of attending a book reading over the weekend and it was so incredible that I had to share some footage. Though my camera is a little old and grainy, I promise the talk is worth it.
Just a reminder that if you are an email subscriber you’ll need to click through to see the full video.
There’s nothing I hate more than sitting down with a book and finding out that it’s just not right. For me this happens when I try to read something too deep on a rainy day or try to read a fluffy novel when I’m in a serious mood. Goldilocks, much? Most often, I pick the book up later that week and things are honky dory, but on rare occasions there’s just on helping the situation. Here are a few books that I abandoned recently and why
Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal by William Chafe
I started reading this one at an internship and really loved it! Since I was so young during the Clinton years it was interesting to learn about the President’s background. I had no idea he was a Rhodes scholar! This one was so much fun until I got about half-way through. Around then, it became apparent that far more weight was being given to Bill’s life; understandable ten years ago but unacceptable now that she’s served as Secretary of State.
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
I tried so hard to get into this one! Byatt writes so beautifully and the story was so compelling. The biggest drawback for me was that I chose to listen to it through Audible. The book is just too long and too complicated for an audiobook. As soon as I can get my hands on a library copy I’ll try again and report back.
What have you read recently that you had to set aside?
Note: Even though I abandoned these books, they may be really awesome! I’m not saying they aren’t perfectly lovely, just that they weren’t right for me at the time.
It’s no secret that I love psychology — pop or otherwise. After Professor Levine‘s abnormal psychology class I began to thing more critically about the books I had once love (Girl, Interrupted, Prozac Nation). Chief among the offenders was Sybil. A classic story of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) it sparked a craze that led the American Psychological Association to add the diagnosis to the DSM.
In Sybil Exposed Debbie Nathan looks into the science behind the book and makes some shocking discoveries. The real story of abuse may be more violent and underhanded than the story presented in Sybil. Dr. Wilbur injected Shirley (the real name of Sybil) with “truth serum” many times a week. The substance is shown to cause hallucinations, nausea, excessive sleep and is only recommended for a maximum of three doses. This drug in combination with the others Dr. Wilbur prescribed for Shirley kept her from pursuing any life independent from therapy.
Nathan presents the story from three different perspectives: Shirley, Dr. Wilbur and Flora Rheta Schreiber. By doing so she is able to create a story that parallels the fragmentation of Sybil’s creation.
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Coincidentally, I had already started listening to this audiobook when the bones of Richard III were discovered. To be honest, I didn’t even realize that the Richard in Gregory’s book was that Richard until I read this article!
Even without the connection to recent events, Gregory’s book is an interesting portrayal of the oft demonized king. She turns the suspicion of his guilt on its head and makes him into a highly sympathetic character. By the end of the book I was rooting for Richard and the Plantagenets!
If you’re looking for more historical fiction check out my reviews of Above All Things, City of Women and The Pleasures of Men. For more Philippa Gregory try The Other Boleyn Girl. Made into a movie starring Scarlett Johanson and Natalie Portman, this book details Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn’s lesser-known sister Mary. It provides an interesting look into the politics of Tudor England!
State of the Union
Less of a news article and more of an event, I loved watching and reading the State of the Union address. In following the speech online, I was astounded by the power of social media. The discussions showed a level of political debate usually reserved for the classroom!
I love this take on how much our culture loves a good marathon! Though marathons are generally thought of in terms of television (think Law & Order: SVU), the author also considers reading marathons. I think I’d like to take on a good day of reading, what about you?
By Invitation Only: How We Build Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkins Wilson
The story of how two HBS grads came from wildly different places to start one of the most successful online sample sale sites, By Invitation Only isn’t light reading but it’s definitely fun. I really liked how the A’s (as they refer to themselves) show every step in the startup process and how quickly things change in that environment. They give helpful management tips at the end of every chapter, highlighting what they learned from their experiences – I liked these because I could pretend I was doing homework for my management class!
Of course, I was predisposed to like By Invitation Only. I was an early convert to the online sample sale craze, joining Rue La La, One Kings Lane, Hautelook, and others just weeks after they opened. Even without all of my sample sale love the book stood on its own as an interesting portrayal of life at a startup.
Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney
As Downton Abbey mania sweeps the United States a whole slew of books about the Edwardian era have come out. Though it’s easy to fall in love with the glamour seen at Downton/Highclere, the reality is that running a house like that was hard work!In this rendition of “Upstairs/Downstairs” Maloney recounts typical menus, daily chores and standards of decorum. Interspersed with excerpts from Punch and other papers, Life Below Stairs was fun to read and definitely made me appreciate my modern household appliances!
Check out some other books about servant’s in the Edwardian era:
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell: This one is a memoir by a woman who was once a kitchen maid.
While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax : A little different, Wax’s book shows how the series bring a group of fictional women together.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon : If you just can’t get enough of Downton, check out this true history of Highclere Castle where it is filmed. I have this one out from the library right now so I’ll let you know how it is!
The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding – More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs by Emily Baines: Looking for something to eat as you watch tonight’s episode of Downton? Why not try Lady Mary’s Crab Canapés?
I haven’t done much magazine or online reading this week, so instead I thought I’d share the films I’ve been enjoying:
Valentino: The Last Emperor *– Ever since I saw The September Issue, I’ve been yearning for a good fashion movie. Valentino hits the mark with beautiful dresses, posh Italian accents and sweeping views of Paris – c’est magnifique!
Funny Face* – I’m a sucker for anything starring Audrey Hepburn but this might be my new favorite. She plays a nerdy bookseller who is taken to Paris to be the face of a magazine and a prominent designer’s new collection. As an added bonus the author of Eloise, Kay Thompson, plays the fashion editrix!
J.Crew and the Man Who Dressed America – Part business documentary, part profile of J.Crew this documentary is a wonderful escape from the real world. Clocking in at under an hour it’s the perfect lunchtime treat.
*available on Netflix
~ available on Hulu