Monday, November 13, 2017

What I'm reading this week (11/13/17)

Last week I finished:

I'm not a personality typing buff. In fact, I have very mixed feelings about the value of such a thing for society. My spiritual outlook is such that we are created in God's image, products of the one Mind, and therefore, the same. I deal with things on the material level only to the degree that they can be perfected and brought up to the spiritual standard I was created by. Therefore, if I see something in my personality that causes me (or others) discomfort, I treat it. Personality typing, however, divides society into groups of like-acting individuals. Some types focus on the positive traits or strengths of each group, some on the negative traits or shortcomings of the group, and some a mixture of both. Needless to say, this sort of thing makes me uncomfortable. While it can be helpful to know yourself in order to improve yourself, it can also be a trap of limitation. Enter personality typing aficionado Anne Bogel and her book, Reading People. In her book, Bogel goes into some depth explaining several of the most common typing systems: Enneagram, Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, 5 Love Languages, and StrengthsFinder. She talks about the backgrounds, methods, and her results with each test. It's presented in a friendly manner that makes the book enormously readable. I really enjoyed my time with the book, and it gave me much food for thought. While I won't be taking any of the tests to identify my personality group, I was able to identify some things that I might want to address with spiritual work in order to become more Christlike. I recommend this book to anyone interested in this topic. It's certainly a good place to start with the exploration of personality. My rating: 4 stars.

Back in college a friend of mine introduced me to the James Herriot books, and I was intrigued. Growing up a farm kid, I though I might find them interesting. And...ahem...20 years later, I finally got around to the first in the series, All Creatures Great and Small. I listened to this on audio, and it was hugely enjoyable. The narrator is wonderful, his accents are great, and he nails the dry humor. This is memoir of a country veterinarian (James Herriot is a pen name), practicing in Yorkshire in the 1930s. Herriot works for ,and lives with, a more experienced vet, Siegfried, who has a holey memory. Also a part of the stories is Siegfried's brother, Tristan, who is going through vet school. Most chapters tell a single story about a farmer and his cows, horses, dog, what have you, and they're all funny and/or touching. Herriot is a natural storyteller who isn't afraid of a big of embellishment for the sake of the story, and listening to this book I missed my dad who had that same gift. If you haven't tried a Herriot book, I highly recommend this one. I'll definitely continue on with the other four books in the series, probably on audio as the experience was so good. My rating: 4 stars.

And speaking of charming English books, I finished I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith last week, and it was wonderful. It's a cross between an updated Jane Austen romance and a Flavia de Luce book (without the humor or mystery...). I knew very little of the plot of this one going in, and I felt that was a good way to enjoy this book, so I'll try not to give you too much plot summary. It's the story of 17-year-old Cassandra, her sister Rose, brother Thomas, father and stepmother Topaz, and boarder/caretaker Stephen who is Cassandra's age. They live in a falling-down castle in England in bad straights since her father has been unable to follow up his first critically-acclaimed book with another. Two brothers, Simon raised in England, Neil raised in America, happen upon the castle one day, and folks fall in love with each other, chase each other to London, etc. Like I said, it's very much an updated Austen novel. The whole book is written as Cassandra's journal. It was a good read for this time of year. The family's gloomy prospects fits well with the chilly weather and short days of autumn. I would definitely encourage you to get ahold of this one if quiet English books are your thing. It was published in 1948, but it's enjoyed a bit of a revival, perhaps because of J.K. Rowling's endorsement printed on the front cover. Dodie Smith is the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians of epic Disney fame. My rating: 4 stars.

I've long been curious about the additional selections in online State pull-down menus: Puerto Rico, U. S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam. I don't know about you, but I never learned a whit about them in school. Well, same for The Not-Quite States of America author Doug Mack. In fact, Mack, who studied American Studies in college, knew no more about them after his coursework than you or I. So, he set out to change that. He visited each of the territories (in addition to my list is Northern Mariana Islands), examines the culture, asks the natives questions, and presents his information to us. I looked forward to reading this book all year (it was released in February), and I finally picked it up when the recent hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico really brought the island to my consciousness again. Unfortunately, I didn't love the book. First, and it may just be me, but I felt Mack wasn't impartial in his portrayal of the facts. He was very much of the liberal mindset that colonialism was wholly bad and the folks of these islands should have the same rights and privileges as Americans in the states. This may or may not be true, but I resented his out-of-hand assumption that it was true--and that his readers would agree. I don't think it's racist to say, for instance, that American blacks--though descendants of slavery--are better off in present-day American than in most countries of present-day Africa. Mack takes issue with that stance. That aside, I don't feel that all of my questions were answered. I came to the book wondering: Are all of the people in the territories American citizens? Do they pay taxes to the American treasury and live under the laws of the American Constitution? How does America support the economy of the territories? What is mainland America's responsibility to the territories? among others. I didn't feel that I got any hard answers. The book was mostly the adventures of Mack in the different territories, and I could have done with less of that and more facts. Perhaps the problem is that it's different in each territory. They all seem to have different designations: organized vs. unorganized, incorporated vs. unincorporated, commonwealth. I got confused by the unclear information, and I came away with almost the same questions I went in with. It may very well be that I was dense and missed things. Regardless, I was expecting something a little different from what I got. If you like travel memoirs, this is pretty good, but if you're looking more for facts than entertainment, this one may frustrate you. It did me. Still, I will never hear one of these territory's names again without thinking about their tenuous status and varied cultures, and that is a credit to Doug Mack's book. My rating: 3 stars.

Next up:

This one has been on the TBR for well over a year, and with the recent dip in temperatures (5 degrees on my way into work on Friday), a book about a penguin might be just about right.

Last week I started:

This is a re-read for me. As the holder of the Becker family Thanksgiving since 2002 (my gosh, 15 years already?!), I know the drill, and I have the whole thing down. But I still adore Sam Sifton's book for its rigid you-must-do-it-this-way-or-the-day-is-ruined approach. God bless him.  

This week I'll continue with:

I'll be finishing this one soon. Dickinson is like Shakespeare to me, both are great, and I don't get either.

My audiobook:

File this under Getting Out of My Comfort Zone. Sci-fi! (It's actually my second this year! Link to the other.) As a child of the 80s, I thought I'd give Ready Player One a listen. As someone with zero gaming experience (except a game or two of Pong--is that even gaming?), we'll see how that goes.

No comments:

Post a Comment