Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Now Reading: The Mama Bookshelf

Just finished:

  • God’s Hotel, by Victoria Sweet – a modern doctor joins a medieval-style hospital in the heart of San Francisco and discovers forgotten, timeless truths (somewhat bittersweet; definitely not a happy ending, as the hospital where she works is slowly but ruthlessly dragged into the modern era).
  • Still:  Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, by Lauren Winner.  One of the best-known “former Jews” in Christian circles, Winner wrote about her spiritual growth and conversion to Orthodox Judaism (her father is Jewish, and she was raised as a Reform Jew) and then Christianity in Girl Meets God and then, fascinatingly, wrote a book – Mudhouse Sabbath – that explores, on the most practical, nitty-gritty level, what Christians can learn from traditional Jewish practices.  I have read them all, and admire her writing style and hitting-the-nail-on-the-head spiritual insights immensely.  I was very impressed by this “mid-faith” book (reviewers on Amazon have objected to the term because she is still fairly young, and definitely a newish Christian), and thought I might give it its own post at some point… but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.
  • Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook, another single-fruit book (in the tradition of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World) that I started reading over our Shabbos in Washington.  Placed a hold on it when we got back and it took a while to get here, but eventually it arrived and I picked up where I left off.  Take it from me:  the news is not good.  Most of our tomatoes, especially winter tomatoes, are grown by slave labour in Florida, in sandy soil completely devoid of nutrients, where natural agriculture is almost impossible.  And they’re flavourless, to boot, though it seems rather petty to complain about the flavour when the workers’ babies are being born with no limbs.

Still on the go:

  • Among the Truthers, by Jonathan Kay – from the JFK & 9/11 conspiracies, from Area 51 to the Birther movement, here’s why the nuttier elements on both Right and Left are both not as nutty as you might think… and still somewhat nutty.
  • Called to Controversy, by Ruth Rosen – a Christian review book about Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Judaism, which I was sent a Looooong time ago and promptly lost; I’m still interested, despite the book’s heavily biased viewpoint.  Duh.  I knew it was biased going in… it’s still reasonably well-written.
  • Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman – average American war correspondent moves to France and discovers that every assumption English-speaking parents make about their babies and toddlers is wrong, wrong, WRONG.  I’m listening to the audiobook version, on loan from the library, and I don’t get a chance to listen often, so my copy expired and now I’m on a hold list to get this out again.  So far, I am enjoying this very much, though mostly for its entertainment value and NOT as a parenting-advice book, since we’re pretty much past the babies-and-toddlers phase.  However, most of the time I find that what she’s saying about French parents is not only so intuitive, it is things I have done with my kids for years (like pausing to listen, just for a moment, before picking up babies, not offering constant snacks, expecting them to sleep through the night fairly young, and including them in family meals, where they are expected to at least taste everything on their plate) – so much so that I find myself thinking, “I’m French!”  I have to add that the audiobook is extremely well-done; there are many accents required to adequately depict all the French, British and American friends, relatives and experts discussed in the book, and the narrator (not the original author) has so far done an unbelievable job of it.
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! – sometimes, I swear I’m more of a boy than a girl, and it’s books like this, about early geek-hero and Einstein colleague, the super-brilliant Richard Feynman, that have me convinced.  This book is all-boy – rude and crude like the man himself.  Ted recently got out Feynman, a graphic novel based on the life of the eponymous physicist, and it’s all about his devotion to his wife and all this blah, blah, blah, and it ends on a dreary, blah, kinda-touching note where he’s dying and he’s talking to his son, and… well, borrrring.  Surely You’re Joking, which I suspect I’ve read before, sat on my father’s bookshelf for years and it must have been totally up his ally: silly and smart, equal parts lectures to geniuses and ridiculous safe-cracking tricks.  Nevertheless, Younger Me turned up her nose at this book, thinking it must be just plain dumb.  Boy, was I missing out all those years.  This is an audiobook I got out as a temporary replacement for Bringing Up Bébé, but now I’m sucked in and very, very happily immersed…  (and here’s a full-length bio!)

What’s on your bookshelf???  What do you think I should read next?

2 comments:

  1. I read Girl Meets God recently (my DH is getting on my case about my selections of Jews who try Christianity books!) and I was of course saddened by her switcheroo, but even more saddened that she didn't seem to learn so much from her first conversion (to O Judaism). Am I led to believe that she still is having some problems?

    Tomatoland was a sad read, sigh.

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  2. Hmm... "still having problems," no; afaik, she was ordained as a minister last year. She overcomes the crisis in "still," which is a rather plotless book in comparison with Girl Meets God. Her spiritual crises have definitely been derided on Amazon, where reviewers have pointed out that a) they're not all that bad; mostly a divorce, b) some of her issues show mental-health-type OCD leanings, which have nothing to do with faith, and c) if you have only been a Christian for a few years, you can't really call it a "mid" faith crisis. I think she's a very bright lady, and Mudhouse Sabbath was actually rather helpful in terms of helping me appreciate the Yiddishkeit I have, and also giving me, in a sense, the vocabulary to share that appreciation with Christians should I ever need to. So tell THAT to your dh. ;-)

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