Charles Darwin had great interest in science, but he was expected to become a pastor. Before going into this field, he had an opportunity to go on a trip around the world on a government-sponsored survey ship, the Beagle. The sailing ship didn’t give anyone much room, but wherever they stopped, Charles gathered many items of interest that he wanted to study. Most things were skinned or dried and sent back to England after careful notes and drawings were made. He noted all changes in plants, birds, and animals in different regions and habitats and theorized on what caused these changes. He spent most of his life reading, writing, experimenting and working on understanding the functions of the changes. He documented the importance of Natural Selection. He was also a loving family man who had great sadness in the loss of children and siblings and often suffered from illness himself. Through it all, he was a dedicated scientist.
This is the story of Brave Orchid, a Chinese girl raised among the old ways, where sons were appreciated in a family, but daughters were usually to be sold or married as soon as possible. There were many deaths mentioned in the story – the background of ghosts that were always with the people. Many warnings about life were usually told as stories to children about how the gods expected certain actions and gifts. Her mother sliced the frenum under her tongue when whe was a baby, which caused her great difficulty in speaking clearly, so as a child, she rarely spoke at all. The Chinese say “a ready tongue is an evil.” There are actually many stories of the women in the family. Brave Orchid attended college and got her medical degree. She treated many people in China before coming to America, but when she and her husband moved to California, they made their living with the hard work of a laundromat in the Chinese quarter.
This is a very interesting book about Thomas Jefferson’s legitimate and illegitimate families. It explores the controversy of the Sally Hemmings relationship through interviews with family members. Shannon Lanier is a descendant from the Sally Hemmings side of the family and wants to get to know all of his new cousins after the revelations about the relationship were announced and the family attended the reunion at Monticello. I found it fascinating to hear all the stories of this blended family, how many of them passed for white instead of black, how some have always know they were descendants of Jefferson and how some just found out. I found it sad that some of the descendants from Jefferson’s daughters deny there was any relationship between Jefferson and Hemmings. I have to admit that I believe there was a relationship between the two. It isn’t that hard to believe that Jefferson could love his slave. Her devotion to him seems indisputable. She tended his grave until she died and wouldn’t leave the area. I know some people find it hard to reconcile the Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Jefferson who had slaves, but he was a product of his time. Slavery was a part of life and he could not have done many of the great things he did without his slaves (build U.Va. and Monticello). He also educated his slaves and made sure they knew a trade, at least the ones that were his children. There are many twists and turns to this family’s history and it is all very interesting and fascinating to read about.
Diego: Bigger than Life tells the story of Mexican artist Diego Rivera through a series of poems and illustrations. The entirety of his life is illustrated in the poems from birth to death. I loved that the poems conveyed all the emotion and actual situations of each subject. I feel like I learned all about Diego Rivera through these few poems. Everything from his upbringing, to his art to his many wives and mistresses were covered. I really enjoyed the illustrations as well, but I do wish that more of Rivera’s actual art could have been used.
Black Elk’s Vision is the true story of Lakota Medicine Man Black Elk. When he was young he had a vision of six grandfathers offering him the choice between a life of peace and a life of violence. Throughout his life he tried to tell people of his vision and bring it forth. Unfortunately, the White Men or Wha-shi-choos didn’t allow for a life of peace. Black Elk was part of many battles that wiped out the Indians and left them on reservations. He traveled with Wild Bill’s Wild West Show across the country and to Europe but he still didn’t find the peace for his people he sought. The imagery and story of this book suck you in from the very beginning. There are wonderful period photos and illustrations the highlight the story being told. Nelson does a great job of showing the freedom the Indians had and how it was taken away by the White Men. Wonderful book!
This is another of Cleveland Amory’s humorous stories about a special cat. He is very knowledgeable about cats and prides himself on taking good care of his pets as well as feeling personal friendship with them. He expects his friends to appreciate them, too. Polar Bear was a stray kitten when found and his life until the old-age problem of uremic poisoning, kidney failure, took him away was enjoyed and reviewed by the author with a great deal of humor. Mr. Amory admits learning many things while living with Polar Bear – some of which came in handy with his associates.
We think of George Washington as the president on the dollar bill or the quarter; little do we realize that those pictures really do not show the true face of George Washington. This book follows the progress of the creation of three statues of Washington during various phases of his life: as a surveyor, as the General during the Revolutionary War and as President. The book tells us what he was doing during those times and explains the process of recreating his face. There are some really interesting things in this book. I liked knowing more about Washington since I don’t feel like I knew a whole lot about him before the Revolution. I do have to admit that while the process of creating the statues was interesting it got a little long-winded and tedious for me. But the results were fabulous and it is nice to know what Washington really looked like.
There are a lot of books and documentaries about the Beatles. I’ve read and viewed most of them. George Harrison was always my favorite Beatle so I picked this biography since the author kept it short and honest. The problem with famous people is you really don’t know what is really going on since the press’s job is to sell papers and books. George’s life is full of ups and downs but his belief was “I don’t want to be famous but I do want to be successful” After the Beatle’s split he was free to write, record and perform his own music. Alcohol and drugs were part of the scene of musicians and George unfortunately went along with. His personal life was an open book since it involved other musicians namely his friend Eric Clapton. He recorded and produced a lot of albums, this book lists them all. I knew when I started reading this there would be parts that would change my image of George. But he was only human and that’s what made him a great musician.
Anyone want to read a funny book? Me too. Unfortunately, Life as I Blow it, isn’t the funny book I’ve been looking for to cheer me up. Sarah Colonna, a stand-up comedian from Arkansas who, on her good days can be amusing at best, writes a tale of her short life. Having a lack of judgement, I thought maybe her book my be funnier then her stand-up. I was wrong. The title is a little amusing, doesn’t that count for something? Granted, Sarah is talking about her mishaps in life, so I should give her break but I won’t because I never gave Chelsea Handler a break, so she won’t get one either. If you are interested in a person who never really grew up and keeps making the same bad decisions over and over again…then this might be your book. However, if you want entertainment or an interesting biography, check out my blog.
Russell Freedman really knows how to write nonfiction for kids and he does the story of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass justice in this book. This book takes the story of their lives and shows how they intertwined to lead to a friendship. They only physically met three times, but they ended up having a lot in common. This book shows the common threads of their lives and the differences. It shows that they were not always on the same path to equality and in fact Douglass frequently criticized the pace Lincoln set in regards to the rights and freedoms of Blacks. But they had a lot in common even down to the book that changed the way they looked at things, The Columbian Orator. If I have one quibble with this book, I wish it would have spent more time with Douglass. At times it seemed more like a biography of Lincoln than a shared story of the two men. But it is an excellent glimpse into a turbulent time and the lives of two great men.
We’ve all heard of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin but who were the other signers of the Constitution? This book has mini-biographies of each of the 39 signers of the Constitution. These men were just as flawed as the elected officials we have today.Hugh Williamson believed in aliens, Robert Morris went to prison, Jonathan Dayton stole $18,000 from Congress, and Thomas Mifflin was ruined by alcohol.
Also includes a complete text of the Constitution and all it’s amendments including The Bill of Rights. Very brief bios of the other men who attended the constitutional convention but didn’t sign for one reason or another.
I grew up during Beatlemania. The Beatles are amazingly talented musicians and song writers. But I didn’t realize how much Brian Epstein contributed to their success. He grew up in Liverpool in a family that owned a furniture store. He didn’t want to be a part of it but when they opened a record store he quickly took to it and made it a success. The customers came to his store to listen mostly to the latest songs of the 60’s. When he went to the Cavern, a popular club in Liverpool, and saw The Beatles perform he knew that he wanted to be their manager. They agreed and the rest is history. Everyone loved Brian but he had a lot of emotional ups and downs. Being homosexual in England at the time was illegal and he also took advantage of the easy access to drugs. Despite all his problems he developed a new way of managing musicians that changed their appearance, attitude and took care of the details that touring required. His life came to a sad end too early. This book is made up of commentary by people who knew Brian and lived through his life. After his death The Beatles refused to have any other manager because Brian was just too good.
I’d listened to another NPR driveway moments, and didn’t find them all that spellbinding. But these were interesting stories about mothers – a wide variety. The first one was a collection of bizarre phone messages left by a Mom – “I’m worried about the size of the phone you just bought, its too small, and you might swallow it, give me a call”. Another story discussed a black Grandmother raising her white daughter-in-law’s daughter. Yet another story tells of a last Thanksgiving two sisters share with their dying mother. A last tale talks about an elderly Mom slowly loosing her memories (told from the grandson’s perspective).
This book contains a variety of people’s emotional experiences with various animals that became pets, from your typical dogs and cats, to fawn (later a deer) and to a Mexican wolf. I hadn’t read any of the Chicken soup books, figuring they’d be too maudlin & sentimental for me (do I sound like a literary snob?). And the first story did end a bit too sweetly. A widow receives a puppy, along with a letter, for Christmas from her husband who died a couple weeks ago from cancer. After crying to the new puppy she suddenly has the energy to decorate for Christmas – really – ok grief recovery is a jagged thing (up & down), and maybe the letter and the connection to her husband through the dog means a lot – h’mm.
I did like the stories overall. I also started to wonder why I have an attitude toward the Chicken soup books – they’re definitely Not highbrow (though I read scifi/fantasy, so why do I care). Are Jack London’s canine stories acclaimed because he includes a lot more detail, underlying morals, a tragic ending, or are they well thought of because he’s Jack London. I have to remember that Reading Advisers say “Never apologize for your reading tastes”.
I really liked this book, I very much looked forward to listening to it in the car, I also loved the narrators Aussie accent. Vanessa Woods comes across as fun, positive, appreciative of others (except sometimes her man).
The book cover is a bit misleading, you are going to get a bit more than just cute human-ape interactions, relationships, and animal research. En route you will encounter the brutality people endured in the Congo, in Uganda, Rwanda, about the corruption that Western governments propped up, (out of their fear of communism). Its Not rated PG. Since the author is Australian, the reticence to discuss sex, is absent. Its kind of startling how frank she is. She is also very funny. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what exactly a bonobo handshake is.
Bonobo’s are cousins of chimpanzees, but they are the peaceful loving species. The Chimps and Bonobo’s are our (human’s) closest extant relatives. The author asks the question are we more like Chimps or Bonobos – but leaves the question open at the end.
Heaven is for Real is a book about a boy, Colton, who had a near death experience when he got sick from appendicitis. After he miraculously recovers and leaves the hospital he starts to tell his parents (father a pastor and mother a children’s minister) about what happened while he was in heaven. He recalls to his parents what heaven was like and what Jesus Christ looked like.
This book to me was a huge eye opener. Especially towards the end of the book where they tell a story of a girl who had a some what similar experience. Typically I do not read non fiction books, but this one was well worth the read for me.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams: friends, enemies, both? Exactly right. This is a delightful book that explores the relationship between Jefferson and Adams. They started out as the best of friends as they were shaping this country but they had a falling out over the role of the president and became enemies for many years. They then reconnected as older gentlemen and later died on the same day July 4, 1826. I thought it was really interesting that they were enemies during the time they were President/Vice President. And I loved the names they called each other in the book: “vain, suspicious, irritable, stubborn, and wrong” and “weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant”. They really didn’t pull any punches. The illustrations in this book are fabulous and are really going to appeal to kids. They have a childlike quality that goes along with the text. You feel like you are reading a story not just history.
The subtitle is for Simply Irresistible is Unleash you inner siren and mesmerize men with help from the most famous and infamous women in history. I read the book because who doesn’t love a naughty woman and not so much to be mesmerizing. Interesting biographies on both historical and current femme fatales. Beautiful photographs and art. Let me know though is I seem more siren-ish to you.
Tony Bennett has had an amazing career. He made a lot of friends and got a lot of good advice. This biography has all the ups and downs of his personal and professional life. He also is a talented artist which probably helped his singing career. One thing he stressed was that he always sang the songs he liked and tried not to be swayed by the record companies. He felt that if the song was good it would be a hit. When he hit the big time there was a lot of time spent on the road which put a strain on his personal life. Of course when he recorded “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” he became an a super star. I’m a big fan and was glad to see in the back of this book a listing of some of his best recordings.
Spoiler alert: Pansy O’Hara was what the character of Scarlett O’Hara was called in the early drafts of Gone with the Wind. A must read for any bibliophile, Who the Hell is Pansy O’Hara? is comprised of small chapters about the stories behind beloved books. Full of interesting tidbits that any reader will love; Truman Capote and Harper Lee where childhood friends, Arthur Conan Doyle had sworn off Sherlock Holmes but Hound of the Baskerfields was so compelling that he had to write him again, and Lord of the Flies was written by a teacher who found cloying feel-good portrayals of boys untrue. Great romp through literature.