Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Week in Books

I've been on a major reading kick lately, because I'm aware that there's a ticking clock and in less than six months (hopefully) the time I have to read books without pictures in them will be cut very short.  So I've been going through my Amazon wishlist, putting books on hold at the library, and trying to make my way through as much of my reading lists as possible.

This week I finished:

40 Love
by Madeline Wickham:
my froth reading for the week.  I first fell in love with Sophie Kinsella when I bought the first Shopaholic book at the Tesco's in Covent Garden on my lunch break as an impulse when I was getting a sandwich in 2000.  Her books aren't deep, though they deal with issues that are sometimes hidden beneath all the foam.  This one was about four families getting together for a tennis tournament, and, as usual, madness ensues.  The finale was worth the entire book.  I read it in about three hours, and thoroughly enjoyed those 180 minutes.

 The Age of Wonder

How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

by Richard Holmes.
Full disclosure, I listened to the unabridged audiobook.  And it seemed to last for freaking ever.  In fact, I think it did.  I started listening to it in October.  Before I was even pregnant.  Now granted, normally I listen to audiobooks when I walk around the lake, and with winter I've been walking a lot less.  But not that much less.  This book is L-O-N-G.  It's all about the age of romance (ie in music there's Chopin; in art, Van Gogh) and how Science had it's own Age of Romance.  It starts with the journey of the natural scientist/botanist Joseph Banks to Australia (with the crew that was measuring the Venus Transit) and ends with the rise of Darwin.  It focuses on several other leading scientists - William Hershel (astronomer, who built a 40 foot telescope and discovered lots of stars) Sir Humphrey Davy (basically made chemistry a recognized science) and a few others.  I enjoyed it, but yeah, it was long.

Island of Vice

Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York

by Richard Zachs
Here's something I didn't know: Roosevelt was a prime example of Victorian Puritanism.  This book was the monthly book club choice in the library, and looked appealing to me, so I picked it up.  It goes over the time when Roosevelt was getting started in politics, and became a police commissioner for the NYPD, which was, at the time, completely corrupt.  Brothels were everywhere, giving kickbacks to cops to look the other way. The Sunday laws against saloons being opened were completely ignored.  And cops took bribes left and right.  Roosevelt didn't like this, and set about changing it.  The people of NY didn't like corrupt cops, but they disliked not being able to buy beer on a Sunday, their only day off, even less.  There was a huge backlash against him.  Then he started going against prostitution, which is a noble idea, but not so much when the cops start arresting women who are simply walking alone after dark.  Fortunately McKinley got elected and Roosevelt's friends were able to lobby him for a job for TR, so he could get out of NY before he was fired.  Oh, it also shows him having petty political fights with rival commissioners.  Not his best time, but probably hardened him for national politics.

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