Previous month:
March 2011
Next month:
May 2011

April 2011

Paperless society my ass.

And yes, I did watch the kiss(es) this morning. It was fun. Mock me if you must.*

I'm behind on my nonfiction reading, but in the meantime, you may want to consider an article over at Survival of the Book about Amazon's new, cheaper Kindle deal. And then read the related article about how all of these little electronic doodads really aren't any better for the environment than paper books.

And, on a related note, enjoy The Oatmeal's take on owning an Apple product. Tee hee. Happy Friday, all.

*But I did not get up at 5 a.m. to watch the festivities. I don't get up at 5 a.m. for nothing...except possibly an actual flight to London.

Life Stories

This morning I'd just like to send a big shout-out to the librarians and library staff who attended my program (sponsored by the Adult Reading Round Table) yesterday on Life Stories (namely, biographies and memoirs). It was so lovely to meet all of you, and thanks so much for being good sports about participating. I just wanted to let you know your suggestions have been incorporated into the web page listing what we talked about--thanks again! And if you have any additional questions or suggestions for the web page--just let me know at [email protected].

We ran out of time before we got to talk about suitable nonfiction titles for book groups, so in the coming week I hope to get a list of suggested titles up--please do check back; I'll want your input on whether you think they're good "discussable" titles or not.

And, in other fun blog news, I got to meet the blogger Unruly Reader in person! It's always very exciting when that happens. All in all it was way more exciting than my Wednesdays tend to be. Thanks so much to everyone who attended!

Basement Reading: Letters to Malcolm

I must say, one good thing came out of last week's basement cleaning extravaganza/existential book crisis. I realized there's a lot of books in my basement I haven't read yet. So periodically for the rest of this year I think I'd like to delve into some basement books and see what I find.

As last week was the last week of Lent, a.k.a. Holy Week, I thought I would start with a C.S. Lewis selection titled Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. Good Catholics actually give something up for Lent, but I was too weak (although I tried to go easier on the butter--we're starting to go through it at a scary pace around here, and Mr. CR doesn't really use a lot of butter, so we know who the culprit is there), so I thought maybe spending a little more time on religious reading might be a good plan.

It's a short book, in the form of letters Lewis wrote to a friend, Malcolm, and covering their discussions on prayer. Nothing too deep--they discuss using pre-written prayers vs. more free-form ones, etc.--but still a very thoughtful little book. And each letter, or chapter, is only a few pages long, so it makes for good bedtime reading. I'd read it before, but I find with Lewis you can read all his stuff again and again and always find something new.

But this time what I found was something I'd remembered from my first reading of this book: "The Jones boy's name is Cyril--though why you find it so important to pray for people by their Christian names I can't imagine. I always assume God knows their surnames as well. I am afraid many people appear in my prayers only as 'that old man at Crewe' or 'the waitress' or even 'that man.' One may have lost, or may never have known, their names and yet remember how badly they need to be prayed for." (p. 18.)

I always got a kick out of that, as I am a former waitress, and believe me, we'll take all the prayers we can get. Although, if the choice is between a prayer and a big fat tip, go with the big fat tip.

Why? Why can't I stop reading "frugal living" books?

The latest one I read was so bad it brought to mind one of my favorite quotes from a television show: "It's like watching a car crash. Into puppies."*

Yet another frugal living book I didn't enjoy and didn't learn anything from (but yet read all the way through) was Natalie P. McNeal's The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got Out of Debt Without Giving Up the Fabulous Life. It's basically McNeal's year-long diary, which was also posted at, of trying to get out of debt and live more frugally. And when I say diary, I mean diary: like a lot of blogs-into-books, it reads like it was lifted wholesale from the website without much of an editorial look-over. I hate that.** This was also published by Harlequin, which should have tipped me off. Nothing against Harlequin, or romances (I like romances, actually, the juicier the better), I just don't think it's a publishing concern known for its work with serious nonfiction.

McNeal's voice is pleasant enough, even though she's not saying anything new (p. 85, ah, it's the obligatory latte quote: "Death to the latte! And it's about time. Middle-class Americans are dropping their $4 lattes and brewing coffee at home."), she doesn't actually get out of all her debt in the course of a year, and she really does, as far as I can tell, give up a lot of the "fabulous life"--for instance, she has to stop traveling as much with her friends. (A lot of her "buy nothing" frugal strategy also seems to be to go along with her friends buying her drinks and dinners out--not a bad strategy, but one you have to be pretty damn charming to pull off.) She does talk at length about her job as a reporter for the Miami Herald, and the downsizing in the newspaper business, which I found interesting (if sad), and I must say I finished the book without rancor, wishing her luck in her freelance career. But all in all? A pretty forgettable read:

"February 3. I had a love affair with George this morning. George Foreman, that is. It's Sunday and I had to work today, so George and I grilled some chicken breasts. I packed the chicken, some salad and an apple in a bag.*** I like this cooking healthy stuff, but it sure isn't as filling as eating out." (p. 20.)

So why? WHY can't I stop reading these frugal books? I rarely find them helpful, and they're now actively starting to annoy me, as I'm finding it increasingly naive to think we're all going to "frugal" the country back into shape--as if not buying as many meals out is going to put a dent in our personal debt (or our national spending, much of which is disappearing into the money pit that is our "defense" and military spending. For some reason these books are like candy to me****, but much like candy, I think it's probably time to give them up.

*Oh, the short-lived CBC series "An American in Canada," we hardly got to know ye.

**I like blogs, and I like books. I like them for different reasons. This is not to say a good blog can't make a good book, but come on, people, tidy up your writing a little bit when publishing it in book form.

***I think she needs the serial comma here too.

****I ate so much candy this weekend it was obscene.

Friday articles: Delicious, delicious.

Yes, yes, eventually I'll get back to reviewing actual nonfiction books. But these articles are too delicious NOT to post.

First, there's the one explaining yesterday's big server/cloud computing kerfuffle at Amazon. The library catalog at my local library is now using Amazon cloud computing, so they were down all day. Unfortunate timing, as they just put their new catalog up this past Monday. My sympathies to all library public service staff trying to explain that one. Even if you just skim the article, read the last line. It's my favorite. Priceless.

And then, at Bookslut, there's this:

"Laura Miller is arguing that Greg Mortenson's lies about the schools he's building, his casually racist claim that he was kidnapped by the Taliban, his swindling money from his own nonprofit, and grandiose claims of being the white knight of Afghanistan and Pakistan don't matter.

Oh, it's so wrong headed I can barely even think about it. Does it matter that he didn't stumble into the village weary from a failed mountain expedition? No. I mean, it's a stupid fairy tale, but not really. Does it matter that this guy has set himself up as the Great White Hope for these poor backwards mountain people, who are all five seconds away from becoming dangerous terrorists? Yes. Yes, absolutely."

Amen, sister. And a happy hoppy holiday weekend to you all.

Would a Kindle work in the bathroom?

I know very little about how Kindles or any e-book readers work. But I do tend to think that even if I got one, I wouldn't want it in the bathroom with me. For one thing, it seems like the sort of thing I would drop in the toilet, although I have never, ever done that with a book (or even dropped one while reading in the tub). But I'm pretty sure if something electronic and expensive was involved, I'd find a way to drop it in whatever water was nearby.

Bleachy I also don't know if you have to fire them up when you're using them, or if they go right to your saved page. This is one of my favorite features of a print book: whenever I go to the bathroom, I can almost always get a few pages read of whatever book I've got going in there. Take this morning. I'm re-reading Hollis Gillespie's memoir Bleachy Haired Honky Bitch, which made me laugh the first time, and which I'm enjoying again (particularly as I believe Gillespie is one of our country's most talented and most underrated essayists). Here's the paragraph I got to read this morning:

"Like he should worry. Lary is almost immune to police. I couldn't even get the police to handcuff him when he was shooting at people running through the parking lot that abuts his backyard. Granted, they were burglars Lary had caught in the act of robbing his house, but I don't see how the police could have known that at first. I figured I'd at least get to see a SWAT showdown before matters got sorted. But no, Lary says they told him not to miss next time, and to just drag the bodies from the parking lot onto his property, thereby reinforcing a self-defense scenario." (p. 58.)

I try not to be a violent person, but that's kind of funny. I do love cops. But back to the point: I was able to get a laugh in about 30 seconds with my good-old hardcover book. Would it be that easy with an e-book reader?

The dream is dead.

I need to organize and clean my basement.

Now, "organize" and "clean" are not words I throw around lightly. I have never been a good organizer, and if there's anything I hate more than cleaning, I have yet to find it. Going to doctors, I suppose, but that's about it. But, due to the generosity of my sisters, who had kids before me, we now have boxes of clothing and toys downstairs for CRjr to grow into.*

So I'd like to get things down there in order. Our basement is actually quite cozy; not really "finished" but with a nice enough linoleum tile floor and carpets and paneling. The older gentleman who lived here with his wife before us was a librarian, so he even had some bookshelves down there, a few of which he left.**

Last night I was down there shifting some things around, and for the first time in years I started going through some of my books. Now, you should know I have always had this dream of having my own mini-library on a variety of different subjects. I always thought if I did have kids it would be nice for them to have some shelves to browse at home (as I often browsed my parents' shelves). To that end I used to pick up used books here and there on a variety of subjects. I even had little sections going: philosophy, world history, war history, fiction classics, religion, biographies, humor, letter collections, New York City, etc.

But now? When I look around my mini-"library" I just feel sad. I guess I feel like CRjr will probably not want to browse bookshelves, and if he does like reading, he'll probably just want a Kindle or iPad like all the other kids around him will have. I am not a big believer in personal possessions and have tried to keep things as simple as possible around here, but, as with food, I have always had a book policy of "more, please." Now I just think, maybe these are more personal possessions just loading me down. Maybe I should get rid of these too.

Sigh. Forgive my melodrama. I don't know what is UP with me and books lately. I think even looking at print books just makes me think of e-books, and that makes me cranky. It's just that you only find so many perfect things in your life, and to me, books are perfect. I love the way they feel, the way they're easy to use, the way they never need to be updated or rebooted or shut down, the way their spines and covers become familiar like old friends. The way they make a room feel warmer and cozier just by sitting around. The way you can browse a finite collection of books and feel like you can start to get a handle on the many things there are on this earth to know about. The way you can take time with one, sitting and sitting and sitting, but still going anywhere you want with words, and not interrupting your thoughts with hyperlinks and email beeping and, god forbid, ads popping up.*** I'm going to miss all that.

*For this I am eternally grateful to my sisters. Actually, I may hate shopping even more than I hate cleaning, and having boxes of kids' clothes in the basement will help keep my shopping to a minimum.

**He also had a TV and chair down there, and called it his bunker. He was a little apprehensive about their planned move to Arizona, as their new house wouldn't have a basement, and we think he liked having a bunker away from his wife, who was nice enough, but who was, to use a loaded word, a "character."

***Have I said it lately? Fuck you, Amazon.

Tuesday Articles: Vindicated!

If you'll remember, I hated Greg Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea.

So this news was completely intoxicating.* It shouldn't make me chuckle when a noted philanthropist turns out to be a person who treats a charity like "his own personal ATM," but it does. I'm a bad person. What's really fascinating about the whole kerfuffle is how many angry, pro-Mortenson comments there are at the CBS 60 Minutes site. People really want to love this guy. Fascinating!

*Who knows, maybe this is a big kerfuffle and Mortenson really is a saint in a man's clothing. And maybe he just hates the media. But it never looks good when you run out the back door to get away from TV interviewers.

Book Menage!

Well, it's been ages. Is anyone up for another Book Menage*?

For those of you who have never joined us, our Book Menages are where we pick two books and then discuss them in the comments over the course of a week (2 books + 1 reader=Book Menage!). Everybody who participates is entered in the drawing to win the two books for the next Menage absolutely free! (You don't see this part, but my lovely assistant Mr. CR draws the winning name out of a hat. It's very glamorous.)

Because I'm feeling bossy lately, I'm going to go ahead and pick the two books; next time we'll return to doing things more democratically where we discuss and vote on which books to read. But now? The books:

The Birth of Love, a novel by Joanna Kavenna; and

The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis, by Sherwin Nuland.

Yes, they're both books about childbirth. This is what you get for letting the woman who had a baby a few months ago pick the books. I'll contact the winner of these two books, and what do you think we should do for schedule? Start discussing them toward the end of May, the week of May 23?

*My gosh, it's been a YEAR since we did a Book Menage. High time we got back to it!

His way.

Thanks to some research I've been doing for a workshop I'm doing in a couple of weeks* on biographies and memoirs, I've been on a real Frank Sinatra bender. Do you know how many biographies there are about Frank Sinatra? A lot. A lot a lot. This works out nicely for me, as I am a fan.**

Sinatra I've got a pile of Sinatra books here, and every day I wander through some of them, looking at the pictures and reading snippets of text here and there. It's also gotten me in the mood to listen to some Sinatra, which I did today, and which was fun, as CRjr seems also to be a fan. He particularly seemed to enjoy "Luck Be a Lady," although that might have been because his crazy mother was sashaying around the kitchen singing along to it.

One book I made it all the way through was Pete Hamill's Why Sinatra Matters, which I'd file under "hagiography"--Hamill doesn't sugar-coat some of Sinatra's less savory connections or personality attributes, but he definitely comes down on the side of fandom. It's brief--180 pages--and if you like Sinatra's music you'll probably enjoy it. There's a bit about his parents and hometown, birth (he was a 13-pound baby!), childhood, marriages, and mob connections, but the best part is the chapter on the second part of his career, when he made a ton of his hits at Capitol Records:

"There were a number of components to the Sinatra-Riddle collaboration. Friedwald emphasizes one of them: 'Lightness shines as the primary ingredient of the Riddle style. Whether he has ten brass swinging heavily or an acre of strings, Riddle always manages to make everything sound light; that way, the weightiest ballad doesn't become oversentimental and insincere, and the fastest swinger doesn't come off as forced.'" (p. 171.)

I enjoyed that; I enjoyed the look behind the scenes at Sinatra's music (and Nelson Riddle's arrangements of it). Much more fun reading than any of the stuff about the mob. And let's hear it for Hamill; in the back of the book he lists a little bibliography of other books about Sinatra. Nice.

*Calling all library staff in the Chicago area: there's still time to join us!

**Come on. I've Got the World on a String? One of the greatest songs ever.

Know anyone in the thea-tah?

If you do, have I got a book for them.

Dench I checked out Judi Dench's autobiography/memoir And Furthermore because I love Judi Dench. Although I have learned that there is a lot about Judi Dench I don't know--primarily, that she is a thea-tah actress of long standing, and only did television and film roles quite late in her career. I love her as an American does--for her performance on the BBC series As Time Goes By (not to mention as M in the latest James Bond movies)--not for her theater roles.

I enjoyed this book, although if you're looking for gossipy insights you're not going to find them here. She covers her As Time Goes By experiences in about four pages, and the death of her husband Michael in six. Quite simply, this seems to be a woman who just wants to get on with things and does so. And yet, she's got a lot of sparkle. I enjoyed this anecdote about when a director asked her to play Cleopatra in a play (when she was getting on in years):

"I was always anxious about playing her, because whenever I said I was going to play Cleopatra people used to openly laugh in my face. 'Cleopatra?' You? So I was really paranoid about it, and at the first rehearsal I said to Peter, 'Well, I hope you know what you are doing, setting out to direct Cleopatra with a menopausal dwarf.'" (p. 105.)

This is a woman with a sense of humor.

But most of all this is a book for people who are either serious actors or are enthralled with serious actors. Over the course of her career on (primarily) London's stage, she's played a wide variety of roles and worked with many well-known people, and those are the stories she tells. And she loves her life, you can tell, it's so refreshing:

"Well, I am doing the things I want to do now, so I don't want to retire. Actors are really remarkable people to be with. I like the company of other people, but I love the company of actors, and to be in a company...The whole idea of a group of people coming together and working to one end somehow is very appealing to me. It is the thing I have always wanted to do, and I am lucky enough to be doing it." (p. 240.)

As Lionel's father would have told Judi Dench's character in As Time Goes By: "Rock on."

Where are the women current events authors?

Last week my sister and I were discussing Joe Bageant.

If you'll remember, Joe Bageant is the author who wrote last week's Tuesday Article; I linked to it because I was surprised and saddened to hear that Bageant, author of the investigative/current affairs title Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, had died.

The rest of that day I spent too much time watching Bageant in interviews on YouTube, because the more he talked the more he made sense and the more depressed I got that he was gone. (My favorite quote from the interview I linked to there? "There is only one party, the business party, with two faces: the Democrat and Republican parties.") And pretty soon I was having a discussion with my sister about authors who really made a lot of sense to us. Here was the short list:

Joe Bageant
Wendell Berry
Andrew Bacevich
Matt Taibbi
John Bowe (author of "Nobodies")

Jon Stewart also came up. And here are the other authors we didn't discuss but whom I would add to that list: Kurt Vonnegut, Chalmers Johnson, Tom Bissell, William Langewiesche.

So my question is, why can't I find any women authors who speak to me, especially women who do investigative/journalistic writing on current affairs? Okay, Anne Tyler speaks to me in fiction. And every now and then you stumble across a woman writer like Svetlana Alexievich (author of the superlative title Voices From Chernobyl). But they seem to be few and far between.

Alternative titles for Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Imagine the Most Boring Woman You Know Telling You about Her Two Gifted and Talented Children

A Bunch of Stereotypes, Followed By a Bunch of Disclaimers, Followed By No Story At All

Parent This Way, Except It Didn't Work for Me 50% of The Time

People Will Buy Any Kind of Shit Book On Parenting, So Here You Go

Tiger I honestly don't know why this Amy Chua' book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother became a bestseller, or why it's gotten such a huge media barrage. I got to page 60, was bored, read the end, was bored, and was annoyed by whatever extra bits I read in the middle. Let me nutshell it for you: Pushy woman, in the name of being a "Chinese parent," pushes her kids to be their best at academics and music. Except she's not really a Chinese parent (which is just a convenient label for provoking outrage in the media; she says "I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish, and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise," p. 4), which is why she "lets" her second, rebellious daughter ease up a bit on the violin. (Her first daughter's personality was more amenable to being pushed, evidently, as she never really rebelled.) Seriously. That's the arc of the story.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just not in the mood for a book about these sort of rich people problems (Gasp! My child wants to take tennis rather than violin!) I know I don't have the time to read about some woman who needs her children to be the best at everything to do--and I certainly don't want to stop and think about the days when CRjr has to go to school and I might have to interact with parents like this. It's too depressing for words. Back to the library with this one.

The joys of being a woman.

I love my local library's book blog.

It's always got a really nice mix of books, and I know many of the reviewers personally, so I get a real charge out of seeing what they're reading. Recently, one of my favorite reviewers posted about Peggy Orenstein's book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and although CRjr is a boy, I thought about reading it. But then I noticed that Orenstein is also the author of an earlier book, titled Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother, about her struggle with infertility, and something about that just appealed to me.

Daisy This is another book that I was lucky to find while I was in a reading slump. It wasn't particularly light, but it was a fast read and it gave me a little something to think about, and that's usually all I ask of my favorite nonfiction. In this title Orenstein discusses her marriage, her indecision about whether to try having children, and then her unbelievable dedication to getting pregnant when she and her husband did start trying and found they had some fertility issues.

Now, if you're a girl in your thirties and you're either a) conflicted about having children, b) dealing with or have a history of dealing with what I call "girly part issues"*, or c) struggling with infertility, I think this is a book you might want to try. Parts of it made me feel very close to the author, as I've had many of the thoughts and feelings she describes:

"Nearly all of my girlfriends were having children, and one by one, like Robin, they'd dropped out of the workforce. The minds that once produced sparkling prose or defended abused children were now obsessed with picking the right preschool or competing to throw the most elaborate Pocahontas birthday party...My working mom friends weren't much better, perpetually exhausted and resentful."** (p. 12.)

She sucked me in with her first chapter. Did she want kids or not? She hemmed and hawed through her early 30s. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was treated for that, then she and her husband had to wait to try, and then she still didn't know; pretty soon she was in her late thirties, and boom: infertility.

The rest of the book careens from one treatment to another, including some truly horrific procedures and clueless (but still expensive) doctors. Really, it's a fascinating read. As if just learning about the infertility business wasn't fascinating enough, Orenstein also shares what her often singleminded drive for a child did to her marriage.

I won't tell you how it ends. But I thought it was a really great and thoughtful book on the crappy equation*** that women face: get started having kids early or you might be out of luck. Really. Is it fair that women not only have to carry the babies but have a tighter time window than men for when they can? If this is a conundrum you've thought about, you might enjoy this book.

*This is my phrase for them, as opposed to "women troubles."

**Earlier on this page, her friend Robin says this about staying home to parent her kids: "You have no idea what it means to be married to someone who works twelve hours a day. If I kept working, I'd still have to do everything at home." I thought THAT was a fascinating statement.

***In my opinion.

Tuesday Article: Rest in peace, Joe Bageant.

I'm heartsick. Joe Bageant, author of the superlative nonfiction title Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War,* has died.**

Give yourself a treat and read one of the essays from his web site, titled America: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM?

It's long, so don't read it all in one go. And if you don't have time to read any of it, consider reading my favorite bit, quoted below:

"Cultural ignorance of one sort or another is sustained and nurtured in all societies to some degree, because the majority gains material benefit from maintaining it. Americans, for example, reap huge on-the-ground benefits from cultural ignorance -- especially the middle class Babbitry -- from cultural ignorance generated by American hyper-capitalism in the form of junk affluence. 

Purposeful ignorance allows us to enjoy cheaper commodities produced through slave labor, both foreign, and increasingly, domestic, and yet 'thank god for his bounty' in the nation's churches without a trace of guilt or irony. It allows strong arm theft of weaker nations' resources and goods, to say nothing of the destructiveness of late stage capitalism -- using up exhausting every planetary resource that sustains human life."

*Evidently he has a new memoir out, titled Rainbow Pie: a Memoir of Redneck America. I must have it.

**Thanks to editor Cindy Orr at the Reader's Advisor Online blog for posting this news.

Good old Bill Bryson.

At the height (or trough?) of my reading funk a couple of weeks ago, I had the luck to bring home Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life.

Home I really enjoy Bill Bryson. Although he's an American, he's married to a British woman and currently lives in Great Britain, and I think he's got a particularly British and whimsically dry sense of humor. (Which is, of course, my very favorite kind of humor.) He's best known as a travel writer, but he also writes history books, most of which haven't set my world on fire. I couldn't get through his earlier bestseller, A Short History of Nearly Everything.

But this book was in the right place at the right time. Bryson currently lives in a former rectory that was built in 1850-1851, and as he describes the building plan for his house, room by room, he also shares broader historical tidbits: in the chapter on the hall he explores how heating and stove technologies developed; in the chapter on the bathroom he talks about sewage treatment; etc. He packs a lot of history in one volume, discussing ancient Briton settlements on one page and Victorian attitudes toward relaxation, sex, and child-rearing on the next.* And he does it all in typical Bryson style:

"When [George] Washington moved to Mount Vernon in 1754 after the death of his half brother Lawrence, it was a modest farmhouse of eight rooms. He spent the next thirty years rebuilding and expanding it into a mansion of twenty rooms...He fussed over every detail. For eight years during the Revolutionary War, through all the hardships and distractions of battle, he wrote home weekly to inquire how things were going and o issue new or modified instructions for some element of design. Washington's foreman wondered, understandably, whether this was a good time to be investing money and energy in a house that the enemy might at any moment capture and destroy...Luckily the British never reached Mount Vernon. Had they got there, they almost certainly would have spirited off Mrs. Washington and put the house and estate to the torch." (p. 301.)

Bryson at his best just has such a nice light touch with nonfiction. I'm glad I found this book when I did; I needed a good, interesting, but not particularly heavy read. Mr. CR read the whole thing through as well, which is rare--he doesn't start a lot of nonfiction, and he finishes even less.

*A friend of mine opined that the book was a bit too all-over-the-place for her, which I completely understood, but I think that's the aspect of it that appealed to me. The last few weeks my mind has been all over the place, so this book nicely matched my mood and interest level.