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.

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