Staff Picks: Books

Ask Me Why I Hurt

I first heard of Randy Christensen, MD, when Diane Rehm interviewed him on her show, discussing Ask Me Why I Hurt. “Dr. Randy” is medical director of Crews’n Healthmobile, a mobile medical clinic providing health care for homeless youth in Phoenix, AZ. In this book, Christensen tells the true stories of many of the young people he’s treated on the healthmobile, changing names and identifying characteristics, of course, to protect the privacy of his patients.

We learn early on where the book gets its title, when “Mary” appears outside the van, wearing a beaded bracelet, with the words “ask me why I hurt” spelled out in block letters. Mary nervously avoided the doctor’s direct questions, so it took a while for Dr. Randy to build enough rapport with her to trust he could ask the question, without her running away. When Mary did finally answer him, after several stops to the mobile, he learned she’d been seriously sexually abused by her father. Mary’s and the other teenagers’ stories told in this book are both heartbreaking and heartwarming, as many of them do ultimately find reason to hope and ways to heal.

I take exception to the subtitle: “the Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor who Heals Them.” To say this book is about the kids nobody wants isn’t the whole truth. Many of the young people seeking health care at Crews’n have experienced serious neglect and/or abuse, often at the hands of family members, that is true. Yet, Mary finds sanctuary and a second chance with her aunt; ultimately, we learn that she goes on to finish her education and complete a master’s degree. Donald—a boy whose father beat him so severely he sustained permanent brain damage--gains a loving family and caring community when Pastor and Mrs. Richardson take him in. Then there are all the workers from HomeBase, a shelter for teens, and UMOM, a shelter for homeless families, who help teens prepare for adult life, via GED and life skills education.

To my mind, the book isn’t really about Randy Christensen. Granted, he shared autobiographical details that help the reader understand the stresses of trying to balance family life with the particular challenges of his chosen career. And yes, as I read the story, I came to care about him, as well as the kids that visit the van. The book is written in first-person narrative, but the main reason for the book is that these young people matter, their stories matter, and Christensen felt they needed to be heard. Christensen shows us that there are a lot of young people suffering, there's a desperate need for more services and protection for them, and yet there are many people who care and are helping teens-at-risk make positive changes in their lives.

Book

Ask Me Why I Hurt
9780307718990

Download a Little Bit of History

An important academic voice for more than three decades, Manning Marable’s scholarly career was defined by an eclectic and astute collection of books that explored the relationship between racial politics, capitalism, and African American history. His final book prior to his death in April of this year was a controversial biography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention). This National Book Award nominated title can be downloaded to your e-reader device or tablet.

Book

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
9780670022205

Bad behavior makes a good read

The nine stories in Mary Gaitskill's first book, Bad behavior, are all about people longing for connection with another human being, and the messed up ways they go about trying to create that connection.  The people in these stories are gritty and real; these tales are at the same time depressing, inspiring, cautionary, entertaining, thought-provoking, and overall, quite compelling.  I have the author's other three books checked out.  Rated R for adult content (drug use, sexual situations, realism).

Note: the movie Secretaryis (very loosely) based on the story of the same name in this book.

Book

Bad behavior
0679723277

Love Part 23: incredible, pathetic, inspiring, sad and weird American stories

After reading these amazing stories you might agree with Thomas Ouk that love is “not easy to find,” which is what Aristotle and Montaigne said. Or you might agree with 86 year old Fred White that “true love exists. If you make it. It’s a true thing if you make it true.” He was married to Helen 65 years, through the long distance of the Korean War. Or you might agree with Brigitte Aiton that most relationships are “a life of quiet desperation” where “you just keep moving forward,” even though you secretly hate each other—which sounds like Pascal. Or you might agree with Aubrey Reuben (76), who had a great marriage, yet still says “Most husbands hate their wives, and most wives hate their husbands. Or, worse…they’re indifferent.”

Some of these stories are sad. Real sad. Like Russell Gore, who went from gang-member and hustler, saying “Love?...I didn’t care about love!” to saying “That’s what love do—make you want to live…make you want to see your next birthday” and “I don’t think I’ve ever been in love like that before.” He fell in love with “Cynth,” who died in his arms as Katrina filled their house with water. She died of a heart attack. “I stayed with her, a day and a half, dead.” When he finally got rescued, he went straight to where she worked, “I was waiting for her to come out like she was getting out of work. But she never come.” He was devastated:

“I just recently learned how to not cry so much. Because my wife is with me every day of my life…that’s the only thing that keeps me on the straight and narrow and keeps me doing what I’m doing, because one day I’m gonna meet her again.”

Or Steven Hager, who heard the pump of a shotgun from the closet. It was his wife trying to kill herself. He stuck with her. It happened four more times. She was in pain. She went from a “vibrant, intelligent, fun-loving” super bright lawyer, to someone who fell off a roof, with unbearable, unfixable pain for 18 years. “I felt like it was my job to stop her, but at the same time, I felt like I was prolonging the suffering. I had mixed emotions and mixed beliefs…” Even though “God had put us together,” “He’d given her “something she couldn’t handle.” Eighteen years later (surgery), “my wife was healed…her being able to sleep at night is an amazing thing…she’s enjoying life.”

There is tons of wisdom in these stories, collective wisdom, often reflecting the wisdom of the love-writers I’ve been blogging about. Steven Hager says “I think love is basically about action, about doing something for a person. It’s about choices…She has often said to me, ‘Thanks for sticking with me.’ But that wasn’t a choice. We have a family and we’re committed to each other.”

Marty Edwards says love is about “want, not need.” Samantha Wright says it’s about listening: “When he’s listening to me, he’s really listening with his whole being.” Paul Pesce says it’s about agreeing and giving, “give in to the other.” Kathy Barrett says it’s friendship that kept them together, others think it’s the intellectual connection, but Rebecca Danier thinks it’s about sex: “if you have a good sex life with somebody, there’s a fundamental respect for that person.” Bill Von Hunsdorf says it’s more about having someone around, a physical presence, a person to acknowledge your existence—what Simon May calls “existential grounding.” For Jeremy Vanhaitsma love is about experiencing God: “My definition of love has always been that God is love…The way that I’ve experienced love has radically changed since I met Anne because I never knew that I’d ever be able to experience the fullness of the Father’s love.”

The people who said “we never fought” usually had a sense of humor.

And then there are the bizarre/sad stories, like the man in love with his wife’s sister who lives about them, the couple who fall in loving doing meth together, the lesbian who marries a super-macho born again Republican, the Buddhist monk who was forced to marry someone at the point of a gun (even they sorta fell in love!).

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne
Love Part 17: Bacon
Love Part 18: Spinoza
Love Part 19: Your Body
Love Part 20: Milton
Love Part 21: Pascal 
Love Part 22: Locke

book

Us Americans talk about love
9780865479296

The Art of Fielding

512 pages about baseball? When someone recommended The Art of Fielding to me, I was a little hesitant. But I tell you, those 512 pages flew by!

Yes, it’s a book about baseball, but there’s a lot more here... the community created by a small, liberal arts college, the loves and losses of the characters, growing up of course... sacrifice, integrity, and honor.

Mostly, though, it’s a really, really good book about baseball.

Book

The Art of Fielding
9780316126694

Give the Gift of a Library

During this busy holiday season, parents and other adults are scrambling about in search of the perfect gift for their children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Well, look no further!

Consider a gift that will entertain and educate kids of all ages and bring your family closer together. Give the gift that keeps on giving - the gift of reading! Reading with a child/children and encouraging them to read independently are two of the most significant things an adult can do to influence a youngster’s life.

Of course, good books make wonderful gifts. Kids naturally enjoy the magic that a book brings as they go over the story and illustrations, (many times, often more than once), practice their reading skills and perhaps learn something new in the process. Magazine subscriptions also make great recurring reading presents.

But maybe the best option for a reading themed gift is to bring a child to the Kalamazoo Public Library sometime during their holiday break. If you time it right, you can attend one of many programs planned for children. Then you can sign up the little guys for their own library cards, which come complete with plastic carrying cases and lanyards. And even though it is free of charge, the amount of pride and joy you’ll see in the little ones’ faces when first presented with it, will form a pleasurable, lasting memory for all gift givers.

kpl-childrens-card-598.jpg

Once armed with the card, the child has the entire library’s collection at his or her disposal. They can choose their own books, audiobooks, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Of course, librarians are always on hand to aid your young ones in the selection process, helping to match the child with books covering their particular interests, and on their reading level as well. Best of all, this process can be repeated again and again. Just return the items and pick out new ones as many times as you like. Truly the best gift of all. And one that will keep on giving for a lifetime!

Book

Library Card
kpl-library-card-160
/account/card.aspx

Smokin Seventeen

Smokin" Seventeen by Janet Evonavich

The Stephanie Plum novels are a fun quick read. Leave reality, immerse in the characters and have fun.

Take a look at the back cover and you tell me who Stephanie is modeled after. I was very upset when it was announced that they were making a Stephanie Plum book into a movie. I love that they will make it a movie I hated that they chose Katherine Heigel for the role of Stephanie Plum. My fellow CAMP workers at the library tend to agree with me on that aspect. They do think that the person picked to play Ranger is definitely drool able. Ranger is a major hunk so this actor has an almost impossible task ahead of him. In this novel there are a bunch of bodies being buried in shallow graves at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds temporary location. Not good for business to have police roping off crime scene areas right in front of your trailer which is your office. Yeah the killer of these victims is sought but the greater thrust is Who will Stephanie pick; will it be the Hunky Ranger who can send her into orgasmic heaven or will it be Morelli who was Mr. Bad boy but is now a cop and can give her a night of passion that has her passing out from delight. These books have a rough plot of solve the crime and Stephanie has colorful friends like Lulu but mostly the book is about Stephanie's urges. Her quandary about which man to hook up with solely. She wants them both and has them both. As do we vicariously as the author describes the mounting passion and the trip to heaven. Personally I think she needs to settle down and choose Morelli, but she is still in the have your cake and eat it too phase. So she sleeps with both, mostly Morelli kinda in the roll of husband (or steady lover) but she also keeps taking a trip on the wild side with Ranger as he has the ability to blast her into outer space. There is debate in CAMP as to who she should choose. But there is not debate that even the thought of being with Ranger makes you weak in the knees. But Ranger is so transient that he is only good for a roll in the hay. Morelli is the one she should marry but not until she has the ability to quit getting it on with Ranger. She has to choose someday but the longer she puts it off the longer she has the best of both worlds and lives in orgasmic bliss. As to the story, it's incidental but yes she solves the mystery. I love the Stephanie Plum novels. I love the quirky way she brings in a bond jumper and I love her internal debate over who to choose and I love her descriptions of her trips to the heavenly delights.

Books

 Smokin" Seventeen
9780345527684

Love Part 22: Locke, toleration as love

Locke defines love as “the delight which any present or absent thing is apt to produce in him…Thus the being and welfare of a man’s children…producing constant delight in him, he is said constantly to love them. But it suffices to note, that our ideas of love and hatred are but the dispositions of the mind, in respect of pleasure and pain in general, however caused in us.” This is how Spinoza defined love too, and sound’s a lot like Mill’s Utilitarianism. It’s all very simple: love is the thought of something that causes you pleasure; hatred, pain. It's all relative to the individual; you might think something causes you pleasure that really harms you in the long run. 

On the Love of Truth:

“He that would seriously set upon the search of truth ought…to prepare his mind with a love of it…one may truly say, that there are very few lovers of truth, for truth’s sake, even amongst those who persuade themselves that they are so. How a man may know whether he be so…I think there is one unerring mark of it…the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure…loves not truth for truth’s sake, but for some other bye-end.”

People think they love "the truth," but they really don't. They like what it could do for them.

It is a natural fact, says Locke, that we are all equals, and from this follows a duty to love each other, even in the “State of Nature” (without government): “The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one…that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” Sounds a lot like our Constitution, right?

In his A Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke argues that toleration is the “chief characteristic mark” of true Christianity:

“The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that is seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light.”

He ties toleration to charity, and he especially attacks those who hate people in the name of religion, who “pretend” that their actions somehow spring from love:

“I appeal to the consciences of those that persecute, torment, destroy, and kill other men upon pretence of religion, whether they do it out of friendship and kindness towards them or no? And I shall then indeed, and not until then, believe they do so, when I shall see those fiery zealots correcting, in the same manner, their friends and familiar acquaintance for the manifest sins they commit against the precepts of the Gospel…persecute with fire and sword the members of their own communion…and when I shall see them thus express their love and desire of the salvation of their souls by the infliction of torments and exercise of all manner of cruelties.”

In other words, love never causes hatred: “nobody, surely, will ever believe that such a carriage can proceed from charity, love, or good will.” To think otherwise is hypocrisy or deluded thinking. Remember when Dalia,in Milton’s poem, asks Sampson “And what if Love…caused what I did? (betrayal).” To which Sampson replies: No! love never causes evil—that’s irrational!

Furthermore, Locke thinks that it is the minister’s duty to preach toleration:

“He that pretends to be a successor of the apostles, and takes upon him the office of teaching, is obliged also to admonish his hearers of the duties of peace and goodwill towards all men…towards those that differ from them in faith…as well as…those that agree.” And, if this happened, “how happy and how great would be the fruit, both in Church and State, if the pulpits everywhere sounded with this doctrine of peace and toleration…”

This focus on tolerance also reminds me of the Unitarian movement.

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne
Love Part 17: Bacon
Love Part 18: Spinoza
Love Part 19: Your Body
Love Part 20: Milton
Love Part 21: Pascal 

book

Locke an Introduction
johnlocke
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=locke+introduction{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes

Even if you do not make a single thing from Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes it’s a great title to browse. You may be tempted to try something, though, just from the photos alone.

The author’s aim is to show busy readers how to put a full course meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. Oliver groups together recipes for an entire meal for 4-6 people, from main course to simple dessert. His method is to give the recipes, and then he provides a unique, easy-to-follow plan for putting everything together fast.

Jamie Oliver began his career in 1999 with the UK series “Naked Chef.” His food shows have been airing on Food Network since 2001, and he won an Emmy in 2010 for his show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”

In a fast paced world, our meals often get short shrift. Who can resist at least looking at a book that includes this intriguing, mouth watering offering, just one example of 50 menus: Cheat’s Pizza, 3 Delish Salads, Squashed Cherries, and Vanilla Mascarpone Cream?

Book

Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes
9781401324421

Shock Wave

Shock Wave by John Sandford.

John Sandford is one of myBook My Favorites authors. If you are a resident you too can sign up for Book My Favorites. This book is one of his Virgil Flowers series. Virgil Flowers is a spinoff of the Lucas Davenport books. Virgil Flowers is a detective in the Minneapolis area and works for Lucas Davenport. In this mystery someone is blowing up stuff and people, with bombs. Virgil is called in to solve the mystery. The readability of the book is more of an immersion than a finding out who did it. Yeah, Virgil solves the crime but the author brings Virgil to life. When Virgil will be up late at night he takes a nap in the afternoon, he eats breakfast (and you get to read what he orders). You feel like you are there, an unseen watcher. Virgil is a holdover from the 60's person, always wears a t shirt from some band. The people he interacts with always comment on his penchant for wearing these t shirts. Women for some reason desire him and he usually winds up woo'ing one of them. 

PyeMart is planning to open a store in a small town. By opening this store it will destroy many small businesses, they just will not be able to compete. The rain runoff from the huge parking lot is threatening the river. PyeMart is a made up name but when Walmart came to Portage we had some of the same issues. There were lots of articles about how the runoff ruined Portage Creek. So, I'm thinking some of this is a change the name so we don't get sued, make a statement about big business and the environment, take a what if scenario and make a mystery of it. It's a good read.

Book

Shock Wave
9780399157691
 

Clementine and the Family Meeting

Clementine, a third grader, thinks that her family of four people is just fine the way it is. Who needs a baby? There won’t even be room at the kitchen table, which has only four sides! Clementine and the Family Meeting is the fifth book in the popular series of books about Clementine and her family.

Clementine’s voice—both internal and external—is terrific. “Dad reached over and opened the marmalade, which is a kind of jelly that grown-ups pretend to like even though it has orange grinds in it, which we throw away for a reason.” Don’t miss this series, by Sara Pennypacker; it’s great for independent readers, as well as for shared family reading.

Book

Clementine and the Family Meeting
9781423123569

Love Part 21: Pascal, how hating yourself is actually loving yourself

There’s two things about Pascal you need to know to understand his thoughts on love. First, he doesn’t think reason (rational thinking) is very great: “How ludicrous is reason, blown with a breath in every direction!” Unlike most philosophers, he thinks it’s weak, lesser than faith, overwhelmed by the imagination, leads to pride. Another thing about Pascal is his belief that humans are depraved, unjust, wicked, “a great source of wretchedness.” He constantly talks about it; Hobbes is an optimist compared to him. You could pretty much sum up Pascal’s thoughts about love like this: hate yourself; love God. Period.

The thing about love is that it blindly and stupidly attaches itself to anything it can. If people don’t attach themselves to “true objects, they must attach themselves to false.” Here Pascal is on the same page as Epictetus and others, who think that figuring out what to love is the crucial step to loving well. But what are these “true objects” that we are supposed to love? Well, the better question is what are the “false ones.” Pascal puts all the things we love in a field, sets the field on fire, and sees what’s left--the first to burn is the self, the ego, the “I”:

“Self is the enemy, and would like to be the tyrant of all others.” And: “The nature of self-love…is to love self only…But what will man do?...He wants to be the object of love” but “his faults merit only…hatred and contempt.” “He cannot prevent this,” says Pascal, and “this embarrassment” leads him to “devote all his attention to hiding his faults both from others and from himself.” Such a “voluntary illusion” is a “greater evil” than having the faults in the first place!

But alas, this “aversion to truth” is “inseparable from self-love,” and this all leads to a sort of fake love among people. We con each other into thinking we are all lovable:

“They treat us as we wish to be treated. We hate the truth, and they hide it from us. We desire flattery, and they flatter us. We like to be deceived, and they deceive us…Human life is thus only a perpetual illusion; men deceive and flatter each other. No one speaks of us in our presence as he does of us in our absence. Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence…Man is, then, only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy…and all these dispositions, so removed from justice and reason, have a natural root in his heart.”

Wow! In other words, the barrier to us loving ourselves is that we really do suck! Pascal differs from “the philosophers,” who teach people that the greatest thing is inside them, that they should seek within for the divine. You can try to put make-up on yourself, but in the end it’s all pride and illusion and fakeness.

But loving yourself has even larger consequences: “the propensity to self is the beginning of all disorder, in war, in politics, in economy, and in the particular body of man.” “It is…a manifest injustice which is innate within us, of which we cannot get rid, and of which we must get rid.”

This all leads to his views on Christianity, which he considers the only water to put on the fire: “True religion consists in annihilating self before that Universal Being.” And “We must love God only and hate self only.” And “No other religion has proposed to men to hate themselves. No other religion, then, can please those who hate themselves, and who seek a Being truly lovable” and “Jesus Christ did nothing but teach man that they loved themselves…that He must deliver them…that this would be effected by hating self, and by following him…” But isn’t God, according to Christianity, “inside” us? Pascal doesn’t really give a clear answer, saying God is within and without but neither and both.

In somewhat of a Buddhist perspective, Pascal doesn’t want people to be "attached" to him either. “It is unjust that men should attach themselves to me” (“they ought not to”) “for I am not the end of any, and I have not the wherewithal to satisfy them. Am I not about to die?...they ought to spend their life and their care in pleasing God.”

With all this talk about hating oneself, Pascal does think we should love, or take care of, our bodies. We should think of all the parts of our bodies as “thinking members,” each of which have self love that we must give proportionately.

A small peephole for love?

This analogy of being a member of a body is, for Pascal, the key to loving yourself. You can only love yourself as a member of something bigger, not as a self: “in loving the body, it loves itself, because it only exists in it, by it, and for it…We love ourselves, because we are members of Jesus Christ…He is the body of which we are members.” So the only way out of self hatred and depression is putting yourself into a bigger picture, a process of self sacrifice and transformation. 

Like many love-writers before him, Pascal praises the greatness of love:

“All bodies together, and all minds together, and all their products, are not equal to the least feeling of charity. This is of an order infinitely more exalted….From all bodies and minds, we cannot produce a feeling of true charity; this is impossible and of another and supernatural order.” And: “We are estranged only by departing from charity.”

And, agreeing with how Augustine interpreted the bible, he says “All that tends not to charity is figurative. The sole aim of the Scripture is charity.” What I don’t understand is how this charity talk fits in with all his talk about hating yourself and (presumably) other people. Why should we give to people that are not worthy of love, Pascal? There seems to be a tension in his philosophy; on one hand, he wants us to hate ourselves; on another, treat everyone with respect?

Giving to the poor is essential. Pascal thinks that all excess wealth (“superfluity”) should be given to the poor: “When we give the poor what is necessary to them, we are not so much bestowing on them what is our property as rendering to them what is their own; and it may be said to be an act of justice rather than a work of mercy.” (Augustine: “the superfluities of the rich are the necessities of the poor.”)

Pascal’s life reminds me of Tolstoy’s in the sense that as he reached his death he became intensely religious, gave away his possessions to the poor, and detached himself from human relationships. 

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne
Love Part 17: Bacon
Love Part 18: Spinoza
Love Part 19: Your Body
Love Part 20: Milton

book

Blaise Pascal Modern Critical Views
1555463738

Kill Alex Cross (I keep rooting for the Villain)

 "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson. There are times I'd like to kill Alex Cross or at least let him get beat up like he did in a previous book. For those of you who do not know Alex Cross, he is a Detective working in Washington DC and is a recurring character in James Patterson books. For those of you who do know him, do you find him as arrogant and full of himself as I do? In this book the President's children go missing. Even though there are literally thousands of intelligent agents from all sorts of agencies; Secret Service, FBI etc, Alex Cross thinks if only he could see the evidence he could solve this. Unfortunately he is James Patterson's protagonist so of course he solves the crimes and is the hero. That said, I did find this book to be a page turner and stayed up too late nights reading just one more chapter. In addition to the president's children missing there is also a terrorist group doing bad things. I'm not sure how I feel about books that detail how a terrorist group could poison the water, or sabotage the subway etc, on one hand it makes us more aware but on the other hand it hands over to a terrorist group a plan of attack. Course a lot of mysteries show you how to commit the perfect crime. The other thing that bugs me about Alex Cross is how he thinks he is the best dad in the world when really his nana is raising those children. He just shows up from time to time like a divorced dad with visitation rights. Keeping in mind this is a fictional character I give kudos to James Patterson, he elucidated a response out of me and made Alex Cross Real. His name is on many books in collaboration with another writer. Personally I think those books are written by those writers and James Patterson just had editorial rights. I like the Alex Cross novels best and I anxiously await his next Alex Cross Book.

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Book

Kill Alex Cross
9780316198738

Key West Literary Scene

I recently blogged about The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s early years and the jazz age literary scene in Paris in the 1920’s. Shortly thereafter I read a review of a new nonfiction book which sounded related: Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West.

Although Hemingway spent later years in Key West, he is only mentioned in passing. Rather it is the story of another literary scene in another time in another part of the world: Key West in the 1970’s.

This later generation was defined by Jimmy Buffett, Jim Harrison, Tom McGuane, Hunter S. Thompson among others, and the small town on a two-by-four mile island. During this decade or so, it became an artistic haven – some there to find their creative voice, some to recreate themselves, others to get lost ultimately in drugs and alcohol.

This interesting, readable book tells the story of how some found their identities there and even maintained their friendships over the decades as Key West changed, the times changed, and most of them moved on to other parts of the country.

It was a unique time and a unique place with literary and artistic achievements that continue; there are interesting similarities between Paris in the 20’s and Key West in the 70’s.

Book

Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West
9780307592002

It is our Nation’s heart and soul

Kadir Nelson is my favorite illustrator and now he has illustrated and written a new book! I especially like his historical portraits. In Heart and Soul he writes about the lives that belong with his expressive faces, some of them fictional and some of them biographical, but all of them speak to me. They tell stories of injustice, unfair laws and the struggles and determination it took to rally against them. 

 Heart and Soul: the Story of America and African Americans is very nicely done in an old storytelling style that says "that promise and the right to fight for it is worth every ounce of it's weight in gold. It is our Nation’s heart and soul."

Book

Heart and Soul: the story of America and African Americans
9780061730740

Esperanza Rising

After you read this great juvenile fiction story, you will conclude that the book: Esperanza Rising IS appropriately titled. Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy rancher in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in 1930. Esperanza always had servants; the most- trusted servants are Alfonso, Hortensia, and their son Miguel. The day before Esperanza’s thirteenth birthday her world is changed forever when Papi is killed by bandits. When Papi’s evil stepbrothers, Tio Marco and Tio Luis, take over the ranch, Esperanza and her mother and Abuelita (grandmother), hatch a desperate and dangerous plan of escape aided by Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel. Undercover, they all stealth away to California where they labor in a company farm camp and Mexican Repatriation is rampant. Esperanza is forced to change her attitude and ideas and is forced to learn common chores in order to survive.

This is a marvelously well-written story about personal change and triumph. Pam Munoz Ryan’s author’s note describes that the book parallels her grandmother’s life who lived much like the characters in this story. This book is a favorite amongst elementary teachers.

Book

Esperanza Rising
043912042X

Covert, Michigan and the Smithsonian

A few weeks ago I went to Covert, Michigan to be interviewed by Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din, the Project Director for the Smithsonian Institution African American Museum of History & Culture, and Michele Gates Moresi, the Curator for the museum. They had requested a meeting with the descendants of the early black and white settlers of Covert, Michigan. My great-great grandfathers William Bright Conner and his family, and Dawson Pompey and his family were the first African Americans to settle in Covert, Michigan after the Civil War ended. My great grandfather John Conner and his brother Frank, and his two brother-in-laws Himebrick Tyler and Joseph Seaton and my great grandfather Washington Pompey and his brother Napoleon were all veterans of the Civil War.

Our library has a book titled A Stronger Kinship: One Town’s Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith by Ann Lisa-Cox which tells the story of Covert’s unique history as a racially integrated community during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Covert was a town where blacks and whites went to church and school together. They lived among each other and intermarried. Blacks held public offices and owned businesses. My great grandmother Annis Pompey owned and operated a cider mill and was the first female in Covert to have her own business. Anna Lisa-Cox was instrumental in getting the Smithsonian to take a look at this community.

valerie-and-deborah-598.jpg

The new Smithsonian African American Museum of History & Culture will have an exhibition titled “Making a Way Out of No Way” which will include eleven communities from across the United States and Covert, Michigan will be one of the eleven exhibits.

I’m very excited that my ancestors will be a part of this exhibit and proud of the contributions they made to society. If you are interested in learning more about the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture that will open in 2015, you can visit this website: http://nmaahc.si.edu/

Book

A Stronger Kinship
0316110183

Are You a Psychopath?

Did you ever wonder if you were a psychopath? I hope you answered, “no,” to that question. If you have, please do not comment on my blog entry and I do not work at the Kalamazoo Public Library.


But seriously, all types of folks should enjoy Jon Ronson’s new book, The Psychopath Test: a Journey Through the Madness Industry. As Ronson tries to untangle the history of the label of psychopath by exploring several different cases, he starts to wonder if the traits of a psychopath are actually advantages in business or the political arena. He also questions his own sanity at several different points, especially after he reads through the mental illnesses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).


I listened to this book during my commute to work and along with the interesting subject matter, I loved listening to Ronson’s British accent and his, at times, over-excited delivery. I definitely recommend the audiobook.

Book

The Psychopath Test
9781594488016
 

Update on favorite authors

Readers of my previous posts will know of my fondness for N. K. Jemisin and Joseph Heywood.  Both published new books fairly recently, and I enthusiastically devoured them.  Jemisin's finale to her Inheritance trilogy, The kingdom of gods, was just as delightful as its two predecessors; Heywood's latest installment in the Woods Cop series, Force of blood, was another enjoyable, exciting read (and I particularly liked the self-reference near the end).

Right now I'm rereading a classic by Jerry Mander, Four arguments for the elimination of television.  It's just as compelling the second time around.

Book

The kingdom of gods
9780316043939

The Unforgotten Coat

When Julie, a generally bored 6th grader living in a small town near Liverpool, is asked to be the “good guide” for two new 6th grade classmates who suddenly arrive from Mongolia, she’s excited to take on the challenge. She teaches them about soccer, British slang, and school uniforms. She ends up learning quite a lot about traditional Mongolian life - but not from the brothers - and wishing the two weren't so secretive and quite so eager to "fit in" at their new school.  

Some of the things she thinks she learns from the brothers are expressed as Polaroid style pictures, created for the book by illustrators Carl Hunter and Clare Heney. Frank Cottrell Boyce has crafted a school story that is in part about the ways the adult world can disrupt the lives of children. The Unforgotten Coat was inspired by the real-life story of a girl from Mongolia whom Boyce met during a visit to a school. This is an entertaining real-world that you won't want to put down.  

Book

The Unforgotten Coat
9780763657291

Best American Comics

I typically prefer novels over short stories. I like to sink my teeth into a story and chew on it for a while. However, sometimes I’ll read anthologies of short stories, to get some ideas about new (to me) authors, whose novels I might like to read.

Sometimes I’ll pick up an annual Best American Comics for the same reason -- to be exposed to some new graphic novelists.  Series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden choose a guest editor each year, who picks some 25-30 graphic novel excerpts or comic strips to be included. Some strips are chosen from “online only” comics; some are published in traditional print fashion. Best American Comics 2011, published this fall, was edited by Alison Bechdel, one of my favorite cartoonists.

Check it out, but don’t stop there. If you’re intrigued by a strip, find more works by your favorite artists from among almost 3500 titles held by KPL!

Book

Best American Comics

best-american-comics-2011-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=best+american+comics{TI}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five

Can you count to 20? How about colors—do you know them? Opposites? Seasons? Before heading to kindergarten there is a lot to learn! This book is a great check for the 4-year-olds who have been learning so many, many things.

In Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five, Valorie Fisher has created bright, fun, photographs featuring retro toys to illustrate this book of concepts. This book would be a great gift for the clever preschooler on your list.

Book

Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five
9780375868658

Holiday Read-Togethers with Kids

We usually travel to my sister’s place in Cleveland, Ohio to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s a hectic, yet fun time for all, but especially so for the kids. In this case, I’m talking about my niece’s two young girls Zoya, age 7 and Maya, who is 4. To keep the tykes from being underfoot in the kitchen while celebratory meals are being prepared, I have taken to bringing a bag full of children’s books to read to them. All three of us find a comfortable sofa, oversized pillows or bed in a quiet nook of the house and settle in for some choice holiday stories. After doing this for the last 3 years or so, the girls eagerly look forward to our holiday read-together times.

During Thanksgiving our favorites have included Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr, as well as A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting. In both of these humorous kid’s tomes, the turkey does not get eaten on Thanksgiving Day and instead a vegetarian meal is served. In Run, Turkey, Run! the meal substitution is completely unintentional, when the turkey manages to outwit the farmer and his family who have to settle for grilled cheese sandwiches as a result. However in A Turkey for Thanksgiving, a non-turkey menu is planned from the very start, as the moose family (all fervent vegetarians by birth) invite their local turkey neighbor to sit down with them for the feast as their guest of honor. And of course as befits this special status, he is placed at the head of the table.

For the Christmas holidays, some of our past favorites have included: What Dogs Want for Christmas by Kandy Radzinski, The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot, Wake Up Bear...It’s Christmas! by Stephen Gammell, as well as the British classic, The Church Mice at Christmas by Graham Oakley.

On occasion, I like to mix-up the repertoire a little by also including stories not related to the holidays. One of these is Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters, which happens to be Zoya’s particular favorite, and which I have had to read numerous times due to the incessant clamor of an unyielding, adoring (and adorable) audience. To further keep interests high, along with the stories I will sometimes incorporate a craft or two that relates either to the holiday theme or the main character of a book.

So if you have kids, nephews, nieces or friends with children, go to your local library to stock up on some fun titles. Then take some time out, gather up the troops, read, laugh and enjoy.

Reading together: It’s a great way to put that memorable, extra special, human sparkle into the next generation’s holiday season!

Book

Run, Turkey, Run!
9780802796301

Love Part 20: Milton

Milton (Paradise Lost), in true Enlightenment fashion, says that love is based on reason, not on passion:

“In loving thou dost well, in passion not,
Wherein true Love consists not; love refines
The thoughts, and heart enlarges, hath his seat
In Reason, and is judicious”

Love isn't willy nilly, spur-of-the-moment stuff. It obeys rules. It carves out its' actions with obedience to higher laws, principles, and ideals:

“Be strong, live happy, and love, but first of all
Him whom to love is to obey, and keep
His great command”

This sounds like Hobbes focus on obedience, and Jesus's "he who loves me will obey my teaching."

Sometimes love can be nasty, right? Dalia, after betraying Sampson in one poem, is trying to justify her actions. She asks: “And what if Love...Caus’d what I did?” To which he answers “Love seeks to have Love” and “But had thy love…Bin, as it ought, sincere, it would have taught thee Far other reasonings, brought forth other deeds.”

Love doesn't breed hate; it doesn't "reason" that way. Forgivness, of course, is a close relative of love. We've all heard the phrase "I will forgive, but never forget" (discussed in my MLK blog). Well, Sampson does exactly that:

“Let me approach at least, to touch they hand,” says Dalia, to which Sampson answers “Not for thy life…my sudden rage to tear thee joint by joint. At distance I forgive thee, go with that.”

Clearly this is not what Martin Luther King had in mind when he described forgiveness—this is the opposite! This also agrees with what Spinoza said about hating someone that you once loved; that it will make you hate them more, treat them worse than if, say, a stranger betrayed you.

Adam learns some things after the Fall, and after an angel talks to him. Adam says that he should love and fear God, be humble, merciful, meek, etc, and keep working for the good. To which the angel replies:

“thou hast attained the sum
Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the Stars
Thou knewest by name, and all the ethereal Powers,
…And all the riches of this World enjoydst,
And all the rule, one Empire; onely add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add Faith,
Add Vertue, Patience, Temperance, add Love,
By name to come call’d Charitie, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath
To leave this Paradse, but shall possess
A Paradise within thee, happier far.”

In other words, add deeds to your wisdom, and especially love. This is a variation on Paul's "the greatest of these is love"; and when Augustine said that the end of all wisdom, scripture reading, etc. is nothing more than learning how to love, how to embrace charity. Finally, Milton interprets the Holy Spirit as the bringer of the "Law of Faith / Working through Love," which "Upon their hearts shall write..."

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne
Love Part 17: Bacon
Love Part 18: Spinoza
Love Part 19: Your Body

book

Paradise Lost
9780375757969

REAMDE

Geek lit icon Neal Stephenson is back with a near future thriller titled REAMDE that is sure to please fans of his 90’s cyberpunk fiction as well as those who crave the dense and erudite yet page-turning fiction that he seems capable of churning out in reams (six 1,000+ page novels in the last decade or so!). REAMDE at its core is a straight ahead thriller, but it maintains Stephenson’s uber-nerd sensibilities as it careens through a twisting plot path that includes an elaborate World of Warcraft like massively multiplayer online game and the company that runs it, a computer virus that leverages the game to extract “real” ransom from users, menacing Russian gangsters, Chinese hackers, a welsh jihadist terrorist, heart thumping chase’s, and plenty of gun fights. It’s a wild ride; and the fact that Stephenson can make this 1,000+ page tome feel like a page-turner is a testament to his considerable talent.

Book

Reamde
9780061977961

When She Woke, She Was Red.

I’m not usually interested in books that are touted to be just like another book, but after reading reviews of When She Woke that compared it to The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid’s Tale—two of my favorite books—I was intrigued.  Hillary Jordan’s second novel takes place in the near future, a dystopic future where criminals are infected with viruses to turn their skins bright red, blue, green or yellow depending upon the severity of their crimes.  The heroine of the novel, Hannah Payne (an obvious homage to The Scarlet Letter’s Hester Prynne), is convicted of murder for procuring an illegal abortion and sentenced to live her life as a Chrome.  Chromes—the brightly-colored convicts—generally suffer particularly awful fates as they are shunned, beaten, or worse by members of their community.  When She Woke follows Hannah Payne as she attempts to deal with brutal realities of life as an outsider.

Though I enjoyed reading it, there are a few things that irked me about the novel.  The social commentary is very heavy-handed, and at points I found myself thinking “all right all ready, I get it!”  There are also a few things Hannah Payne does that seem out-of-character for her—things done solely to make a point, not because Hannah would have naturally done them.  However, for fans of The Scarlet Letter, The Handmaid’s Tale or dystopias like 1984, this is worth the read.  It’s absorbing, fast-paced, and thought-provoking.

Book

When She Woke
9781565126299

 


Love Part 19: Love Your Body

"I sing the body electric," says Whitman. My blogs haven't been singing about the body much at all; it's all love in abstract, love of humankind, of mind, of God, forgiveness, as a moral command, or societal glue, or metaphysical entity holding the world together. Aquinas mentions that you should love your own body, but many of these dudes didn't really like their bodies (can you even picture them healthy?).

But there's much to be said for loving your own body, your brain, your biology, your health. If you don't love that, then do you love yourself? Why don't we love ourselves? All these questions are relevant and connected. Nutrition is, among others, the science of loving your body. Read this book as a start, which gives you the 14 best foods for your body:

Beans
Blueberries
Broccoli
Oats
Oranges
Pumpkin
Salmon
Soy
Spinach
Tea
Tomatoes
Turkey
Walnuts
Yogurt

For awesome websites, do an "advanced" google search, limit your websites to ".gov" ".edu" and ".org" You'll be amazed at what's out there. Start with nutrition.gov

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne
Love Part 17: Bacon
Love Part 18: Spinoza

book

SuperFoods
0060535679

Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone

Deborah Madison’s cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone was first published in 1997, and continues to be a staple among home cooks interested in natural foods. The beauty of this book isn’t so much the recipes themselves, though many are wonderful, but rather the extensive chapters on ingredients and techniques. The chapter on vegetables alone is reason enough to pick up this book. Madison covers selection, storage, and cooking tips for veggies ranging from artichokes to kohlrabi to winter squash. Some of my favorites of her dishes to make this time of year include green barley and kale gratin (page 520), baked delicata squash (page 440), beans with aromatics (page 315), and apple crisp (page 690). This is easily my favorite cookbook, and one that I believe appeals to all lovers of good, simple food.

Book

Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone
0767900146

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold

If you are looking for a funny, poignant, delightfully read audio book, The Dog Who Came in From the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith, is just the thing.

The dog in question is a Pimlico terrier, with the rather elegant name of Freddie de la Haye. Freddie and his owner, William, a middle aged wine merchant, live in alively London neighborhood apartment building called Corduroy Mansions, with a varied, quirky assortment of residents.

To his complete surprise, William is approached by British intelligence agency M16 who want to recruit Freddie for a spy mission. It involves placing a tiny recording device in Freddie’s collar, and putting the dog in the middle of a Russian spy ring to monitor conversations.

The mystery involving Freddie is intertwined with stories of Corduroy Mansions residents’ lives, loves and foibles and the reader, Simon Prebble, brings just the right touch to the tale and the characters.

Many readers may recognize the author McCall Smith from the Ladies’ #1 Detective Agency series and other books. The first title in the series about Freddie and his human friends, Corduroy Mansions, is also available at Kalamazoo Public Library.

Book

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold
9780307379733

Enthusiasm for a new arrival

It is always a pleasure to find an author whose books are so enjoyable that one finds oneself eagerly anticipating each new arrival. Six years ago, I read And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, and I’ve been delightedly reading each and every book in the series. These appealing mysteries are set in nineteenth century Europe, and feature Lady Emily Ashton, a feisty heroine who is always stumbling across a mystery, and who contravenes the prescribed behavior for upper class young ladies in her pursuit of adventure, solutions, and an exciting, authentic life.

The most recent title, A Crimson Warning, has just been published. I’m waiting for an uninterrupted moment to curl up with a cup of tea, a cat, and this undoubtedly engaging book.

Book

A crimson warning
9780312661755

What a GREAT book!

Ordinarily when one would like a synonym for a word, one uses a regular English dictionary. Sometimes if more alternatives are needed, a thesaurus is consulted. And now, here is a thesaurus for just the word GREAT and a few other superlatives. Recognizing that the usual terms for GREAT (amazing, awesome, unbelievable, etc.) are overused, author Arthur Plotnik has compiled a 244-page book that gives some commentary and more than 5700 choices of synonyms in order to provide variation in speech and writing. Probably as much for entertainment as for practical use, this volume, received in June, is available in the circulating collection.

Book

Better than great : a plenitudinous compendium of wallopingly fresh superlatives
9781573446600

Someone Knows My Name

I just recently traveled to the east coast for my husband’s big birthday celebration. Our entire time on the road was spent listening to the audiobook titled Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill. What a great experience it was for the both of us, plus it made a fourteen hour trip just fly by.

The story is about a girl named Aminata who was abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina. Through her eyes, a terrifying part of history comes to vivid life. The narrator’s voice is so captivating that you can’t stop listening until the story ends and then you want more. The language is so poetic at times about a subject so cruel. Here is a quote from the book that I love “If the sky was so perfect why is the earth all wrong?” The story covers six decades of her life and her three crossings of the Atlantic.

My husband, a history buff, enjoyed the audiobook so much that he’s now going to the library and checking out his own audiobooks. He just finished Abraham Lincoln by George McGovern and is currently listening to Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Being a reciprocal borrower, he was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of resources Kalamazoo Public Library has to offer its patrons.

Book

Someone Knows My Name
9780393065787

Pumpkin Eye

Don’t you love the cover of this Halloween book? Denise Fleming’s artwork in all of her books is so rich and vibrant...and this nighttime sky is the perfect background for the pumpkins and creatures.

Pumpkin Eye is a great choice for pre-schoolers: the slightly scary mood balanced by costumed friends and deliciously descriptive words. It’s such a fun Halloween treat!

Book

Pumpkin Eye
0805066810

Living In Relative Harmony

This past July, I posted a blog about kitten care. That effort came about as a result of our family’s recent adoption of two rescue kittens. As promised then, this is an update about their and our family’s progress together.

The two kittens, Graham and Lionel are a little over six months old now, which means that their individual looks and personalities are beginning to shine through. And at this point in time, they don’t look or act like there is much common parental heritage. While it is true that kittens born to the same litter are more likely to share only their mother’s genes since they have different fathers, in this case even a remote resemblance to maternal ancestry seems to be hidden.

living-in-relative-harmony-068-r-240.jpg

Both Graham and Lionel are supposedly of mixed breed, but that has not prevented them from being quite handsome. Graham in particular appears to have more than a smidgen of some pure bred feline in him. He has very soft, long fur and an especially elongated, bushy and willowy tail. He seems to know of the attractiveness of his back extremity, and will take every opportunity to show it off by swaying it back and forth in an exaggerated manner whenever a human is in the vicinity; somewhat reminiscent of a feather boa in the beckoning hands of an old timey cabaret dancer. In addition to drawing attention to himself, Graham also has found a more utilitarian use for its length by completely covering his nose and ears with it when he wishes to sleep undisturbed.

living-in-relative-harmony-069-160.jpg

After doing some research in The Encyclopedia of the Cat by Bruce Fogle, DVM, my husband now firmly believes that he is mostly Norwegian Forest cat, a breed that possesses pronounced tufts on their ears and paws, as does our Graham. Whatever is his lineage, it’s clear that he is proud of his good looks. He washes himself much more than his brother, and often purrs with enjoyment while doing so. Actually, Graham purrs most of the time because he is one very happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care kitten!

Lionel on the other hand is a short haired orange and white tabby with attractive markings on his back. He is a bit smaller than his brother, but whatever he lacks in stature and looks, he seems to have made up for by having more than his share of smarts. In both looks and personality, he closely resembles our beloved Cosmo, who died from renal failure last February. Lionel learns quickly, understands commands and is very enthusiastic when it comes to playtime.

Both kittens respect Ollie our other cat, three years their senior. To our surprise, he has taken upon himself the task of surrogate parent, washing each kitten regularly, showing them where the chipmunks come to the sliding glass door, and when are proper nap times, snack times etc. If they don’t show respect to him and his direction, he does not hesitate to swat them with his oversized front paws or give them a sharp nip, thereby reminding the miscreant who is boss.

living-in-relative-harmony-071-2r-240.jpg

Unfortunately for Patrick, our four pound house bunny, pet politics in our home has turned somewhat for the worse. Whereas Ollie has always left Patrick alone, both Lionel and Graham have developed an unhealthy fondness for the game of “Hunters and Hunted”, with you know who being reluctantly yet steadfastly cast as prey. Whenever they get bored and left to their own devices, both kittens begin stalking, chasing and roughhousing with Patrick. We on the other hand try the best we can to get it through to them that this is a big no-no. This is usually accomplished with a few well aimed squirts of water from a spray bottle, accompanied with whoops and hollers of reprimand. While water is of course harmless, it is also disliked by most cats, and this combination has been most effective in dissuading Lionel from engaging in this behavior. However, Graham seems to enjoy all things aquatic, (again my husband blames this on his Norwegian Forest cat ancestry) and is curious and amused as to why anyone would want to spray him with water, how we accomplish this feat and even how the water bottle sprayer works. But however slowly, both kittens are learning that the pursuit of bunnies is not an acceptable diversion, and find other ways to amuse themselves. This is a good sign that they are maturing and that their listening /obeying skills are on the increase; a major positive for both our household and Patrick’s nerves.

Every evening I organize a play session with all three felines - Ollie, Graham and Lionel - that lasts for about 45 minutes, so that they can all chase, jump, retrieve and especially interact with one another. This last activity is most important since it builds positive feelings about each other, while decreasing jealousies. No one ever misses playtime; it’s clearly the highlight of their hectic day, which includes many naps, eating, drinking, listening to mellow music and getting into whatever mischief they can. And so our three feline family members live a life of comfort and relative harmony.

Hmmm, I wonder how Patrick feels about that “harmony” part?

Book

The Encyclopedia of the Cat
9780789480217

Love Part 18: Spinoza

Perhaps his most controversial ideas were about God and love (he was called an "atheist" by many). "God loves no one and hates no one." This of course, would not agree with most people at the time (or now), but his reasoning seems good for most theology: "for God is not affected with any affect of joy or sorrow"..."God is free from passions." So he is actually talking about the "passion" of love, not the "intellectual love," which God does have for us:

“God, in so far as He loves Himself, loves men…the love of God towards men and the intellectual love of the mind towards God are one and the same thing.” Intellectual love is “eternal,” not like the passion of love, which is nothing but what the body feels at the time. “The intellectual love of the mind towards God is part of the infinite love with which God loves Himself.” And: “This intellectual love necessarily follows from the nature of the mind, in so far as it is considered, through the nature of God, as an eternal truth. If there were anything…contrary…it would be contrary to the truth.”

What may be even more controversial in Spinoza's time was his amazingly idealistic views on human nature. We can only love God, he says, because we share in the very same love as God loves himself; in other words, we share in God's perfection, "the mind is endowed with perfection itself." Much like a system of geometry, these philosophical beliefs actually follow from his other philosophical principles.

To understand his thoughts on love, you have to understand a little about Spinoza's non-belief in free will ("the mind is determined to this or that volition by a cause, which is also determined by another cause, and this again by another, and so on ad infinitum") and his pessimism ("men generally determine everything by their pleasure” and “very few…live according to the laws of reason"). In the spirit of the Enlightenment, he thinks "free actions" are those that follow the dictates of "reason." Spinoza's world is a giant mathematical clock, ticking away with perfect precision--everything has already happened--and God is the mathematical principle at the center, churning events forward unconsciously.

His definition of love is very simple: “Love is joy with the accompanying idea of an external cause…some authors, who define love to be the will of the lover to unite himself to the beloved object, expressing not the essence of love but one of its properties..." So is hate: "to hate a person is to imagine him as a cause of sorrow." But our imagination can control our passions. If we imagine that people are not a cause of our sorrow, we will stop hating them:

"Hatred which is altogether overcome by love passes into love, and the love is therefore greater than if hatred had not preceded it...for if we begin to love a thing which we hated, or upon which we were in the habit of looking with sorrow, we shall rejoice for the very resaon that we love, and to this joy which love involves a new joy is added, which springs from the fact that the effort to remove the sorrow which hatred involves is so much assisted..."

Notice the parellel with MLK, who said that when we "conquer" our enemies with love, we win a "double victory."

The Golden Rule is a rule of reason: “hatred is to be overcome by love, and…every one who is guided by reason desires for others the good which he seeks for himself.” The perfect society (MLK called the "blessed community" I think) is also based on rational principles: “Above all things is it profitable to men to form communities and to unite themselves to one another by bonds which may make all of them as one man: and absolutely, it is profitable for them to do whatever may tend to strengthen their friendships.” But, as Aristotle said, this is hard—“very few…live according to the laws of reason.”

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne
Love Part 17: Bacon

book

Looking for Spinoza
0151005575

A New History of the Papacy

I was turned on to the history of the papacy through my college art history classes.  It is simply impossible to separate the stories of some of the great European artists from the happenings of their contemporary leaders of the Catholic Church.  When I heard about John Julius Norwich’s new book, Absolute Monarchs: a history of the papacy, I immediately put a hold on it.  Norwich gives us a chronological history of the popes (and antipopes) throughout the two thousand year history of the church, detailing many of their endeavors and challenges such as struggles with secular rulers, church reforms, family scandals, monumental building projects, and much more.  The earliest popes, of whom there remains little information, have rather short sections dedicated to them while some of the most influential popes receive much greater discussion.

When I think about Pope Benedict XVI or Pope John Paul II, I have a hard time imagining them leading armies of soldiers in order to conquest new regions of Italy as Pope Julius II did, or holding romping parties at the Vatican as Pope Alexander VI did for his daughter Lucrezia.  (Wait, did you catch that…daughter of a pope…that’s not supposed to happen!  For another interesting read though, take a look at Lucrezia Borgia’s biography.)  These two late 15th to early 16th century popes fall in Norwich’s chapter titled The Monsters.  What is evident from the book, though, is that the number of popes who took on this position in hopes of genuinely spreading the Word of Christ and making the world a better place, far outnumbers those who saw it as simply a position of wealth and power.  But this task is not a simple one and the political upheaval that the popes were often involved in could be debilitating.

I appreciate Norwich’s work for its broad coverage of people and events.  In understanding the evolution of the papacy and how it has become what it is today we must first recognize the influence of people outside of Rome such as the emperors of the Byzantine Empire and the Cistercian abbot St. Bernard of Clairvaux, as well as the political climate of places such as 14th century Avignon.  Norwich does not limit his discussion to just those who have been elected to the papacy but also grants discussion to the number of antipopes who have tried to get their hands on the papal tiara over the years and the myth that there was once a female pope named Joan.  Pope Joan, myth tells us, disguised herself as a man and made an illustrious career for herself in Rome before being unanimously voted pope.  Her disguise was apparently given away when she gave birth to a child one day when mounting a horse for a papal procession.  An interesting discussion, it seems unlikely that Pope Joan ever truly existed.  What seems even more unlikely, though, is that she could have given birth to a child while mounting a horse!

All in all, this is a very interesting book.  You can read just the chapters you find most interesting, or you can read the book in its entirety.  The stories of these men (and possibly one woman!) will shed new light on this illustrious position that you are sure to find captivating.

Book

Absolute Monarchs: a history of the papacy
9781400067152

Imagine life as a Cabbie

I’ve read so many authors’ accounts of their unusual careers. It’s interesting to learn about life as a…”fill-in-the-blank,” which is often a job I never imagined holding, but experience it vicariously through the writer’s words. One such book is Hack: How I Stopped Worrying about What to do with my Life and Started Driving a Yellow Cab, by Melissa Plaut.

Melissa Plaut has a great story-telling style. I learned a lot, not only about what big city taxi drivers experience, but also about life as a female cabbie in a very male-dominated field. She points out that most people who ride in cabs do not consider what their driver’s job is like, and that in fact, often the driver is treated as invisible or simply unimportant. To illustrate this sense of invisibility, consider the customer that runs a ‘delivery service,’ selling cocaine all over the city, using taxis as his main form of transportation. The cabdriver risks legal trouble for the illegal substance in her vehicle. The dealer risks the cabbie witnessing the deals and possibly identifying him. But the deal goes on, as if the driver never saw it.

Plaut interweaves factual information, such as the health dangers hacks face--imagine what repeated 12-hour shifts can do to your kidney health, when you sit so long with few safe opportunities to use the bathroom--and the legal requirements restricting NYC drivers, with stories of what she and her fellow cabbies experienced out on the road.

It was a fascinating read, and I hope Plaut will write more.

Book

Hack : how I stopped worrying about what to do with my life and started driving a yellow cab
9781400066049

Books Behind Bars

 I have been known to make fun of my lawyer friends for reading books about lawyers, so I felt a little self-conscious when I started to read Running the Books: the Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian. Avi Steinberg’s account of working in a Boston prison library alternates between thoughtful explorations of prisoners’ lives and prison culture and laugh out loud stories involving people he encounters; both guards and inmates.


He starts teaching writing classes in the prison and has one class of women who want to see pictures of the authors before deciding whether they will read her/his book. He decides to incorporate this into his class, passing around a picture and having them write down their impressions of the author and then write down their vote. They like Toni Morrison, think Federico Garcia Lorca is trouble, sense that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a liar, and one woman votes, “Hellzz ya!!,” for Walt Whitman.


Stories like this and accounts of an inmate with a plan to become a TV chef, a pimp writing a memoir, and the time, mid-mugging, Avi and mugger recognize each other makes for a great read.

Book

Running the Books
9780385529099

Countdown to Cabin Fever

I have a plan for Tuesday, November 15, 2011. That plan is to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever! It’s time to start the countdown.

Follow the countdown along with me and other Wimpy Kid fans as we await the fate of Greg Heffley in the 6th installment of the best selling series. What school property does he damage? And if he doesn’t damage it, who does? Is Rowley involved? What is his punishment? Does his family get snowed in over the Winter break? Less than one month until we all find out!

Share your predictions that day, play Wimpy Kid games, eat sugar and create your own diary at the Wimpy Kid Release Party at the Oshtemo Branch Library on Tuesday, November 15, from 6 pm to 7 pm. Wimpy Kid fans of all ages are welcome! Say hi to me while you’re there and let me know if you had enough Wimpy Kid Fever to tune in to the Countdown too!

Book

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
1419702238

Up North: a path to freedom

Some men took their families; some left them behind hoping to send for them later. They left for uncertain futures afraid of what they might find. They left the cotton fields, tobacco, corn and beans behind. They left because they heard that there were jobs, nice homes, food for the family and no Klan.

The Great Migration: Journey to the North is a book of poems and short stories that tell about strength, hope and determination that causes people to survive. Eloise Greenfield showed that you can say very little to still say a lot.

Book

The Great Migration: Journey to the North
9780061259210

Love Part 17: Bacon on the “corrective spice”

Pleading to the King about how great learning and knowledge can be when blended with the proper “corrective spice,” Francis Bacon, one of the fathers of the scientific method, writes:

“…it is manifest that there is no danger at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large whatsoever, lest it should make it swell or out-compass itself; no, but it is merely the quality of knowledge, which be it in quantity more or less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof…this corrective spice, the mixture whereof makes knowledge so sovereign, is charity, which the Apostle immediately adds to the former clause: for so he says, “knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up.”

But not only is love the glue that keeps knowledge together, it also keeps all of morality together:

“charity…is excellently called the bond of perfection [reference to Colossians], because it comprehends and fastens all virtues together…if a man’s mind be truly inflamed with charity, it doth work him suddenly into greater perfection than all the doctrine of morality can do.”

(Perhaps he got the "inflamed" metaphor from Aquinas?) And:

“only love doth exalt the mind, and nevertheless at the same instant doth settle and compose it: so in all other excellencies, though they advance nature, yet they are subject to excess. Only charity admits of no excess.”

In other words, you can't have too much love; there's no such thing. He illustrates with a theological point: the angels fell by wanting to be powerful like God, but nobody ever falls by trying to love:“by aspiring to a similitude of God in goodness or love, neither man nor angel ever transgressed, or shall transgress.” Indeed, this seems to agree with the teaching of Jesus to “Be therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This also reminds me of Carl Jung, who controversially interpreted the book of Job in saying that humans are in a position to be even more perfect than God, because they can choose love in the face of suffering, hatred, injustice, powerlessness, and hopelessness--even with all that, we can still choose to love. 

Agreeing with Aristotle, Bacon thinks that understanding the path to morality, how to be good, is essential to understanding morality and goodness. And, agreeing with Aerosmith (“life’s a journey, not a destination”) it’s really the pursuit, the striving, the going-after that makes us virtuous:

“For if these two things be supposed, that a man set before him honest and good ends…that he be resolute, constant, and true unto them; it will follow that he shall mould himself into all virtue at once. And this is indeed like the work of nature…when nature makes a flower or living creature, she forms rudiments of all the parts at one time.”

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 
Love Part 6: the Buddha
Love Part 7: Christian Love
Love Part 8: Augustine
Love Part 9: Martin Luther King, Jr
Love Part 10: Aquinas 
Love Part 11: Dante
Love Part 12: a Real Love Letter
Love Part 13: Chaucer 
Love Part 14: Hobbes
Love Part 15: Machiavelli 
Love Part 16: Montaigne

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of empire
0143037560

Make Way for Ducklings

I wonder how many times I’ve read this book aloud. Hundreds, at least. I remember the book from my childhood and I’ve since shared it with children at home and at the library.

How is it that a book published in 1941, with illustrations in only one color, is so loved by kids? Those one-color illustrations in Make Way for Ducklings are certainly a big part of the attraction... the ducks are realistic, the perspectives and angles are varied, and there’s a strong feeling of movement and action. But the story is nearly perfect, as well. Words are practical yet poetic, the conversations between Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are wry; Mrs. Mallard, especially, has a bit of attitude that allows for no nonsense from anyone or anything.

If it’s been a while since you’ve spent some time with Robert McCloskey’s ducklings, visit the Children’s Room for a reminder of the power of a picture book.

Book

Make Way for Ducklings
0670451495

The Paris Wife

It has been a long time since I’ve read any Hemingway. The Paris Wife, although fiction, is a look at his early years and the jazz age literary scene in Paris in the 1920’s.

The book is written in the voice of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. They met in Chicago, were married after a whirlwind courtship, and headed to Paris—part of the “lost generation” that included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others.

Although Hemingway wrote “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her,” their marriage was doomed in the hard drinking, fast living, huge egos of the time as Hemingway struggled to find his writing voice and eventually published The Sun Also Rises, dedicated to Hadley.

My book group will discuss The Paris Wife later this month. I’m guessing we all will have thoroughly enjoyed it and we’ll have some interesting conversation about the times, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the others. Did the books of that generation stand the test of time? Are they still read and appreciated? There will be much to talk about!

Book

The Paris Wife
9780345521309
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=the+paris+wife{TI}+AND+McLain%2c+Paula{AU}&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

The Miss Marple of Botswana

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is not a new title.  But, in my true form of not reading many things on best seller lists while they are fresh, I decided to finally check this out (okay, it is almost 13 years later!).  It was housed in the stacks of our Mystery section, so I was anticipating more suspense and foreshadowing than I got.  Nothing nail-biting in the tale of Precious Ramotswe, for sure.  Nothing I could envision being made into a movie (although HBO did create a show based on the Alexander McCall Smith books).  However, there was all sorts of something about the main character and her beloved homeland.  I found myself searching for maps of Botswana and other African nations to follow this detective on her journies on solving the mysteries of her world.  I'm looking forward to reading more about Mma and her male companion Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni as the end of the book poses a bit of a reciprocity to his undying love for her...Tears of the Giraffe here I come.

Book

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
1400031346

Real cars, these!

The first four cars I owned were all made in the 1960s. I liked how they looked, especially my little 1967 olive green Mustang that had a black vinyl top. I was reminded of 1960s cars when I looked at 'Road Hogs,' a book we received just last month. In this volume, Eric Peters includes not only good photographs but also reprints of ads and specifications for cars made in the 1960s and 1970s. I wouldn't want to go back to the level of technology available during those years, but I did get nostalgic when I saw the pictures in this book. For a look at the car culture of two important automotive decades, 'Road Hogs' is a fine addition to the KPL collection.

Book

Road hogs : Detroit's big beautiful luxury performance cars of the 1960s and 1970s
9780760337646

Ten Thousand Saints

Set against a backdrop of 1980s New York City, when crime-rates were high and rents were low, and the obscure and counterintuitive straight edge punk rock scene; Eleanor Henderson’s debut novel Ten Thousand Saints, is a vivid depiction of the passion of youth and the complexities of life and situation that can turn us humans on a dime and send our futures spinning in a new directions. I was drawn to this book by the music. Being a long time, punk rock icon, Ian Mackaye fan; I was always intrigued by the straight edge scene that zealously renounced drugs, drinking, sex, meat, ect., yet slam danced itself to a pulp to the most assaultive music available. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover in Ten Thousand Saints a novel with unforgettable characters, all of whom are realistically imperfect, flawed, and troubled, but who are treated with such compassion and care by the author that you really cannot stop reading until you discover their fates. A great debut that will leave you waiting to see what Henderson produces next.

Book

Ten Thousand Saints
9780062021021