What I'm Reading Now: 13 June 03

In fiction, I continue to read classic detective literature online. This past week or so, it's been more Dr. Thorndyke mysteries, and The Old Man in the Corner by Baroness Orczy. The Baroness is also responsible for the Scarlet Pimpernel books, but I prefer the Old Man - a nameless armchair detective who attends the sensational trials of the moment, and then sets out the solution to Polly Burton, a journalist and his captive audience at the cafe where she eats lunch. The stories are entertaining and twisty, although I find that they rely on the same twist too often. Still, an entertaining read, and you can't beat the availability and the price.

In non-fiction, there have been two: Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith and Eunice Adorno's Las mujeres flores.
Ms. Lamott first: as with other of her books that I've read, this is a series of essays, in this case linked to faith, especially faith when the government seems hopelessly set on a dangerous track. There are some lovely, honest, blunt meditations on being a parent, on forgiveness, on teaching Sunday School, and in all of them she throws tiny bridges of hope across the gap between what we want to be and what we are now, making it possible for me to believe that I can reach that ideal, if only for a second or two at a time. (I recommend "sincere meditations" for those moments where you believe it's impossible to ever live up to those ideals.)
Las mujeres flores is a book my supervisor recommended to me. It's a photo essay about Mennonite women in Mexico: the flower women, to translate the title. The book has a brief introduction, in Spanish and English, and then is simply a series of photographs: family photographs belonging to the women, as well as Adorno's own images of their lives and surroundings. My supervisor found the pictures very exotic - I, on the other hand, thought them very familiar. I could have gone to school with some of these women, seen them on the street, helped them and their children in the library, even visited some of their kitchens. The way of life depicted here has been transplanted almost intact to some areas of southern Manitoba. It's interesting to see what Adorno has captured as significant. My only complaint is that the only information available about the pictures themselves is a title (if any- most are untitled), the location, and the year. In many cases, I find the pictures self-explanatory, but there are a few where I wonder if my suppositions about what is shown is correct.

What I'm Reading Now: 13 May 09

My reading has been a bit scattered, not that anyone is surprised by this any more.

Fiction: I'm reading more classic detective stories on Project Gutenberg. Right now, it's The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Burglar, by Maurice Leblanc. I'm finding them a bit dated, but still fun, and I like the way Leblanc plays with identity, both of Arsene (who is a master of passing for someone else or assuming a different identity) and the narrator, who is rarely who you assume he (yes, so far it's always been a he) is. I have a page or so of other authors of the same time period and genre, and the possession of such a list gives me warm fuzzy feelings.

Non-fiction, book: IBS: Free At Last! (2nd Edition) by Patsy Catsos, is all about FODMAPs, which are Fermentable Oglio-, Di-,  Monosaccharides, And Polyols - each a type of carbohydrate that certain people may not be able to digest. End result of consuming FODMAPs include gas, bloating, and dire GI tract consequences which I will leave to your imagination. The idea is not to cut out all FODMAP foods, but to find out which categories you can consume, which you absolutely cannot, and which you can tolerate in small quantities. I find the concept quite interesting, but I find the organization of the book somewhat annoying. There's minimal background before launching into the diet-modification section, and each chapter ends with questions, but the answers are found later in the book, along with more scientific details. Still, it's one of the best sources I've found locally on FODMAPs, so I can forgive a few stylistic quirks.

I have also just received a copy of The Sacred Choir by Charles Eddy Leslie. He is the composer of Der Friedensfürst, and I wrote about my discovery of this and subsequent researches earlier. The Sacred Choir is a book of anthems, including one called The Prince of Peace. Sadly, although "Friedensfürst"  is indeed a direct translation of "Prince of Peace," there is no further connection between the two. However, I have two more leads to follow, so I shall perservere.

Non-fiction, other: Also on my just-read pile are a number of knitting magazines. A friend from a knitting group left behind some back issues of Interweave Knits, plus three others with titles that escape me at the moment. I've been looking through them to see if there's a magazine that I could recommend to the library, and of all of them, I think Interweave Knits covers the most territory in the most appealing fashion. Also, somewhere in that pile of magazines there is a pattern for a sweater that can be worn inside-out or outside-out, upside-down or right-way-up, front-to-back or front-in-front - and as far as I can tell, any combination of these factors is fair game. I am most intrigued, but I have three projects lined up (yarn purchased and everything) for when I finish the current project.
The current project is also a form of reading - in this case, proof-reading. I've put together a pattern for a stuffed sheep, refining it over the course of three completed stuffies. I'm now knitting the fourth one following my written pattern, to make sure that I've put everything down correctly and my math adds up.

What I'm reading now: 13 April 11

I've read some AJ Jacobs before, and rather enjoyed his style of immersive (sometimes called "stunt") journalism: learning about a topic by trying it out, and then writing about one's experience. So when I came across a copy of his book The Year of Living Biblically, I grabbed it. It's a topic that's had some press recently, due to the success of another book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood  by Rachel Held Evans. (I haven't had a chance to read Evans' book yet.) Both authors undertake to follow the letter of the law for a year - Biblical law.

I found Jacobs' approach interesting. He is of Jewish background, and is agnostic (possibly atheist; I don't have the book handy to check my facts, sorry), and took on the challenge to follow the Bible literally for a year to prove that it is impossible to do so. He takes it on as best he can, even though he thinks it's doomed and he feels foolish with an untrimmed beard and blowing a shofar at the beginning of each month. Along the way, though, he finds that his experiment affects him in ways he hadn't expected. Jacobs' writing will amuse and might also make you think, whether you believe in Biblical literalism or not.

I've also been reading some books on gutenberg.org, specifically Arthur Morrison's Martin Hewitt stories, and I'm currently reading Ernest Bramah's Max Carrados stories. I enjoy the detection, the clean classic lines of the story, and it's a pleasant change when not every story involves a murder. On the down side, there can be some racial stereotyping going on which I find considerably less pleasant, but it's also educational about the period.

What I'm reading now: 13 March 07

Well, the knitting project is finished as of last night (with the help of an NCIS:LA marathon), and will be brought to work tomorrow to be shown off. After that, it will be carefully packaged and sent by InLaw Express to its proper destination... but everything in good time.

I did, in the meantime, find time to read something: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecc Skloot. A lot of scientific research, particularly in human biology and pathology, relies on studying the reactions of cells grown in petri dishes to various substances and conditions. An overwhelming number of those cells are from what's known as the HeLa line. He La is derived from Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who died of an incredibly aggressive cancer in the 1950's, but whose cells continue to live and multiply. Author Rebecca Skloot has researched not just the start of this line of research - one of the first lines of cells to stay alive in laboratory conditions - but also Henrietta's life, and the lives of the family she left behind - none of whom knew anything about HeLa for twenty years. It's a fascinating story, thoroughly researched, and written with clarity and sympathy toward a woman and a family who continue to feel left out of their own family's history.