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06:46 am: Books (long)
As promised, here's what I can remember. Many, many books got left behind in various hotel rooms and airplane seat-back pockets. Those were mostly Harlequins (which I continue to buy despite their almost perfect record of disappointing me, 'cause they're cheap and disposable and not even remotely intellectually taxing… and it is just marginally under a perfect record, too), in which category I include the non-numbered Evanovich books (which she wrote ages ago as Harlequins, I believe... and you can tell).

{deep breath}

Anyway!

I wrote about Ellyn Satter's Child of Mine a while ago, but more about our current issues* than about the book itself.

I was a bit intimidated, ’cause it’s a long, dense book. So I skipped over most of the stages we’ve already passed, going right from the introductory chapters to the toddler and pre-school stuff. I figure we got nursing right, and it’s way too late now anyway.

Quick response: Good book. Reasonable approach. Seems to be solid research behind it (I’ve read some of the studies Satter cites, but not all of them). I dig it. I love her general attitude about kids and weight, which is leave ’em alone and they’ll work out where their bodies want and need to be.

At the very least, it’s not destructive, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of books about feeding and diet.

I bought Rita Arens' Sleep Is for the Weak because I love Alice Bradley . She’s one of my favorite mommy-bloggers (she’s also one of the writers of Let's Panic). I think I found her through Dooce’s compilation, Things I Learned about My Dad. In any case, I love her and wanted to read more. The book is ok, pretty much what I’ve come to expect of blog compilations. Alice’s contributions are good, but I like her blog better. Amalah, of whom I’d never heard before reading the book, had the best description I’ve ever read about what it feels like to become a parent: “I feel like someone scraped off the top layer of my skin and created an entirely new little person with it.”

I don’t remember who recommended Satish Kumar's No Destination, but I read it with somewhat greater anticipation than joy.

He certainly has led an interesting life. He left home at age 9 to become a Jain monk, and ended up doing several long pilgrimages – the longest was 8,000 miles, I think. He’s still an editor at Resurgence magazine. He thinks and writes about “deep” stuff. But he seems, I dunno, self-indulgent to me. At one point in his story, he encounters someone who accuses him of being free to do his pilgrimages and other “holy” activities because of other people’s support. So he off-loads the unholy activities – like working and earning money – onto other people, and he gets the glory (such as it is) and the exalted status. And I think that’s a valid criticism. It’s not as if he does much that’s actually free – it’s just that other people pay for it.

And yet he doesn’t hide that criticism. It’s right out there for people to react to. That speaks well for him, I think. He’s often mildly amusing, which helps. All in all, though, not one of my favorites (though I am glad I read it, so I’m not sure quite what to make of myself).

I didn’t read Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog in French because I’m a slacker (though I did find myself translating an article on the spot last week – for what turned out to be no reason, but whatEVer). Still, I quite enjoyed it. The language is a bit dense (deliberately, I assume, as the protagonists are heavy thinkers, in a self-conscious sort of way), but often quite funny and generally pretty fascinating. I highly recommend it (be forewarned: the ending’s a downer).

I follow Miss Conduct pretty regularly, ’cause I’m generally hooked on advice columnists, particularly when they focus on manners (I’d stalk Judith Martin if she were anywhere in the vicinity, though I’m sure it would be excessively bad manners to do so, further proving that I am unworthy). I generally like Miss C very much, finding her practical and reasonable and modern, and often quite amusing as well.

That said, her book was not my favorite etiquette book. I love the give and take of Q&A – so often people have such fascinatingly weird questions, or such clear bias in the way they ask them – and this book is more a collection of essays than anything else. Still, the advice is solid and not at all fuddy-duddy (which Miss Manners is wont to be on occasion; she seems a bit slow to admit to change, which is probably prudent in an advice columnist).

I’d recommend the book to anyone who feels the need for a quick, reasonable approach to modern issues of manners.

Pema Chödrön’s Taking the Leap seems to me to be an abridged version of her audio book Getting Unstuck, which was my introduction to Pema Chodron. Shenpa (the quality of being hooked) resonates deeply with me, and it’s nice to have a short, written treatise on the subject (the audio book is 3 long CDs). I do think Chodron is best consumed in full-length versions, though I suspect attending her classes would be even better. Her voice is always so soothing. Every time I read her books or listen to her CDs, I think I should do so more often.

Chodron references Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight, which made me think I’m reading from the right pile, anyway. I’d found Taylor through TED. Her book is less… extreme. Whereas in her TED talk, she seems to be advocating that we should all hang out in our right brains all the time (or take LSD or have strokes or whatever), she takes a more balanced approach in her book. She suggests that we need both. Which I think is true. And it’s a quick read, well written, with digestible dollops of science.

I mentioned how I love the itty bitty sh!tty committee, which I think is an absolutely brilliant description. I hope to make significant progress in shutting mine up, just by being more cognizant of its existence.

Chodron's Always Maintain a Joyful Mind is a set of meditations from lojong teachings (like proverbs or slogans). Chodron recommends reading one each day, reading her interpretation, thinking about your own response, and trying to live by that one for that day. Seems like a good idea to me, though I haven’t actually implemented it (oops). I used to do something similar with the Tao, though I haven’t done that in ages either.

:sigh: I’m singularly remiss in working on my spirit. (Also my body, but I plan to join the JCC this weekend.)

I know I wrote about Thomas E. Wartenberg's Big Ideas for Little Kids just the other day, but I didn’t really say much about the book. Wartenberg’s idea (which he’s actually tried quite a bit, so it is a tested idea anyway) is to teach children philosophy through literature. He outlines his general theory, then gives an overview of various philosophical topics, each of which is followed by a specific lesson plan using a specific book (Dragons and Giants to teach ethics, Morris the Moose to teach epistemology, etc.) Fascinating idea. I’ve ordered some of the books, and have also become much more attuned to the natural philosopher in Teddy. Great stuff!

David McCandless' The Visual Miscellaneum is just freakin’ beautiful. Subtitled “A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia,” it’s a gorgeous volume of infographics – pictures that depict data. It covers all sorts of subjects, from genres of music to vintages of white wines to wives of dictators… Just terrific stuff (though many pages lack legends or even titles, which is a weird omission). It’s in the tradition of Tufte (warning: wretched website) or Rosling, but based on data that have much greater probability of being, y’know, interesting.

I liked Steve Krug's guide to usability (Don’t Make Me Think), so I was delighted to pick up his guide to usability testing, Rocket Surgery Made Easy. Good stuff. Well written (much better than Tognazzini’s books, though Tog is the more definitive source). Excellent summary of usability testing issues, and more than passing reference to agile development. So if usability’s your thang, definitely pick up this book.

And yes, Teddy and I have started again on The Sorcerer's Stone. B