Monday, July 20, 2009

Non-Fiction Flurry!

Not only am I reading over here, I have a ridiculous number of books on the go. Admittedly, this all stems from laziness on my part. I have a horrible habit--as I've mentioned before--of leaving books in various places like my car, the upstairs office, under the bed, you get the point. Generally I'm too lazy to actually leave a resting position and go get those books when the urge to read comes a'calling. This weekend was a good example. I woke up before Chuck and I wasn't feeling the best, so instead of going looking around the house for Briar Rose, I just grabbed the closest library book and started reading.

In this case, the library book happened to be a non-fiction I snatched up last week: Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency by Robert Kuttner. I managed to knock off 60 pages or so before I had to be productive, and so far I'm darn impressed with the book. I suspected it might be a winner since it's published by one of my very favorite publishers, Chelsea Green Publishing. More Chelsea Green later...

So far Obama's Challenge is less about Obama and more about the "transformative" presidents that Kuttner mentions in the subtitle. He compares the current social and economic situation to those of the past (the Great Depression and more) and uses these contemporary times as a vehicle to examine presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Obviously FDR had the Depression to contend with, Lincoln had slavery on his plate, and Johnson the Civil Rights Movement. Kuttner not only analyzes these past presidents and their victories and missteps, but he also examines presidents who had the opportunity to be transformative (Kennedy, Carter) but weren't able to make so much of their respective situations for one reason or another like political opposition from Congress, etc.

So far, so good! Kuttner promises to examine the current economic situation and forecast what Obama should do to carry through with his promises to be a transformative president. It's very interesting and well written so far, and I'm looking forward to digging in even more.

I also dove into another library book this past week as a result of weird or insurmountable circumstances. I was on my way from my house to one of my teaching gigs when my Prius encountered an aluminum ladder in the middle of my lane of the highway. I had cars close by on both sides, so I had no choice but to run over it. I figured it shredded my tires, but alas a piece of the ladder wrapped around the front axle. Long story short: had the car towed, everything was fine except some minor body work, but it ate up my afternoon, a good bit of money, and it scared me to death. While I was stranded at the dealership I started my other non-fiction library book: Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, by Russell Shorto. Shorto also wrote The Island at the Center of the World, which I've never read, but so far I'm thoroughly impressed enough that I want to give it a try, too.

From the back cover, here's a concise summary of the premise:

A grand and strange history of the 350-year-long debate between religion and science--seen through the oddly momentous journey of the skull and bones of the great French philosopher Rene Descartes.

If you're not sure who Descartes is, here's a hint: "I think, therefore I am." Yep, he said it. How'd you like to have that saying to your credit? I would!

This book is just freakin' awesome. Shorto has a great conversational quality to his writing, and his explanations of Descartes' philosophies and the grand controversies they caused (and how we still use his philosophies and carry on those controversies) is wayyyy fascinating. I just can't say enough good things about it so far, so you'll see a dedicated post coming soon complete with great quotes and thoughtful passages.

For now I'm off to draft some more posts that you'll see popping up this week. I have a longer break between my morning classes and my afternoon class for the remainder of the summer, so I find myself far more motivated (awake) to blog. Woohoo! I've missed it, lovelies. I really have.


  1. You make Descartes Bones sound fascinating; can't wait for the full review. But what an unfortunate circumstance in which to begin reading it! I am glad you are okay and nothing worse happened.

  2. You are in a non-fiction flurry! I'm very impressed that you can read two non-fiction books at one time.

  3. Thanks, Melanie! Descartes' Bones really is fascinating. Such an interesting premise. But poor Descartes that his bones were passed around so much. Ha! And thank you re: the car situation. It scared (and ticked me off) pretty good, but all's well.

    Bermuda, thanks! I rarely read more than one non-fic at a time, but these are so different, it doesn't seem to be a problem.

  4. Have missed your posts girl! What a scare on the highway. Glad you are ok but sorry you had to shell out some bucks for that.

    Anyway, cool books you've got going on. I'm not very big on non-fiction but I'm intrigued by the Descartes book!

  5. A ladder? When I was coming off the ramp to the highway the other day a 1/2 tonne truck was coming from the other direction and spilled what looked like pipes all over the road! It worked out that other than holding up traffic, he didn't cause any trouble. I just couldn't understand why on earth he didn't have it tied down! Sorry about the money, but glad to hear you were okay. :)

    Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, by Russell Shorto sounds REALLY good. I look forward to your thoughts on it. :)

  6. I'm glad your car's okay! I'm always afraid something like that is going to happen to me on the highway, and as my car is almost twenty years old, I'm pretty sure it couldn't handle it!

    The Descartes book looks fascinating! Can't wait to see what you think of it in the end.

  7. These books both sound interesting and I can't wait to here more of your thoughts on them. Thanks for sharing!

  8. wow, you're good. I am far too anal a reader to read more than one book at a time. I am such a nerd I make sure I carry the book I'm reading everywhere I go - every room I travel to, put it in every bag I take out with me (including the diaper bag) and in the car in case we hit some traffic or have to wait in the car for some reason where I can read a bit...

    Now, granted, I have had NO time to read these days but I'll get back there one day, sigh...

  9. Oh I'm so far behing in my nonfiction reading, it's not even funny. I read so much of it last year and loved it so! *cries*

    Descartes Bones does sound fascinating. I'm glad you have found a couple of books that trip your trigger. ;)

  10. Thanks, Iliana! I'm glad it wasn't any worse, that's for sure. Descartes is good so far! I had to lay it aside some this week for other things, but I can't wait to get back to it.

    Kailana, that's crazy! I'll never understand why they don't quadruple check to make sure things are secure. Whew!

    Thanks, Jenny! I was really worried about the car. It's relatively new, so I'm glad it didn't have a bunch of damage.

    Thanks, Samantha! I'll keep y'all posted.

    Funky, I wish I was more like you!! Then maybe I'd actually finish a book. Oy!

    Heatheroo, I'm so far behind on alllll my reading that it's purely ridonkulous. Blarrrrg!

  11. I have the same terrible habit resulting in the ludicrous 7 books I have started and not finished at the moment. I have been so lazy with the blog and this summer has been my quietest at school -- I have no excuses and reading your blog just makes me want to go out and get more books!


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