Sunday, April 15, 2012

All About Money Books!

OK, I admit it: I have a problem.

I have become obsessed with money. Not in an "I desperately need to get rich and FAST" way, but rather in a " does one invest? What are we supposed to do with money so we can actually retire someday?" kind-of way.

My husband and I are at a point where we want our money to work FOR us. We have money to save, but we don't want it to sit in a regular bank account collecting nothing but dust. However, we are completely ignorant in the area of investing, so I decided to start doing some serious research. I consider myself fairly smart, surely I could figure this stuff out.

So this post is about a number of books I have read in the past month. If you are not interested in money or investing or anything, you should stop reading now as this post will bore you. But, perhaps some of you are like us and want some suggestions on books to read.

In no particular order, here are the books I have read:

 The Millionaire Next Door
By: Thomas Stanley, William Danko

I really enjoyed this book. It is not a book about investing, so much as understanding who the truly wealthy in this county are. There are some surprising facts: like that those people who drive really fancy cars and wear Rolex watches certainly do have money, but they do not have WEALTH- and there is a huge difference. The average millionaire (over 80% of them) live in middle-class working neighborhoods, drive cars no newer than 3 years old, and still clip coupons. They got their millions by making a lifetime of frugal choices. One millionaire never made more than $25,000 a year, but he lived on less than he made and invested wisely and is now a retired millionaire. It is a great read!

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

 The Boglehead's Guide To Investing
Authors: Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, Michael LeBouef

If you are serious about investing, then I think this is an absolute MUST READ. These are three guys who are in their 60's, have made millions on their investments, and want to share their knowledge. They are not in it for profit- these are genuine nice guys who genuinely want to help the average person figure out the complicated world of finance. What they have to say is invaluable. They write in a pretty simple manner (though even in a simple manner, a lot of what they wrote went over my head- so much for me being able to understand the world of investing!). They go through the basics, dispel tons of myths about investing, and teach you step by step what to invest in and how to do it.

Rating: For a book about investing, a 5 of 5 (though this is certainly not light reading!)

The Total Money Makeover
By: Dave Ramsey

If you are in debt at all, you MUST get this book! This book is a step by step guide to get out of debt, stay out of debt, and build wealth. It is not an investing book. It is a course in financial management to get you on track to retire well. I mean it, if you have ANY debt (even if it is just your mortgage) and you want to be rid of your debt and putting money into retirement accounts, college funds, etc. you really should read this book. I'm sure you have heard of Dave Ramsey, but if not- you should check him out.

Of all the books, he offers the most hope that you (and I) can have the future we dream of. Millions of people have followed his plan and been successful. When I read this book, I felt like I could actually retire in style like I want to.

Rating: 5 of 5
 The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing For Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything In Between.
By: William J. Bernstein

This book was a tough read. He is REALLY smart and offers A LOT of information, and a lot of it went over my head. However, he also brought up a lot of important and staggering statistics that are important to be aware of.

The most important assertion he makes is that only the last 1-2 generations of Americans have had to know about investments. For the most part, Americans have been able to rely on fantastic pension programs that have taken care of them in retirement. Now, to save money, companies no longer offer pensions and instead require average citizens- 98% of whom know NOTHING about investing- to be 100% in charge of their own investments and retirement. What does that mean? That 70% of Americans have absolutely nothing saved for retirement, that millions of Americans will never be able to retire, and that many of the elderly will have to rely 100% on the government for their retirement.

How is that for frightening? How is that for no longer having pensions? It is a serious problem- one I hope to not face because I hope to retire with millions in the bank, not zero!

He goes through some important information on investing- how to invest, how to avoid common pitfalls, and how to hopefully end up NOT poor- that is his goal. He doesn't want to make us rich, but he wants us to be able to retire with dignity and NOT in the poorhouse.

This book was a little deep for me- a lot went over my head. But, I still think it is an important read to try and understand investing.

Rating: 3.5 of 5
Early Retirement Extreme
By: Jacob Lund Fisker

This book was interesting. Jacob is a man who retired at the age of around 30 and lives off of his investments and whatever odd jobs he wants to take (he defines retirement as being able to do anything he wants, so if he wants to work a few weeks a year, he does, if he doesn't want to work, he doesn't, etc.).

His philosophy is simple: Live off of practically nothing and put 50-80% of what you make into savings and investments, and after 5-10 years you can retire as long as  you continue to live frugally. I love his message of anti-consumerism. (Some of you know I mentioned Mr. Money Mustache on my personal blog, and if this early retirement extreme is of interest to you, I HIGHLY recommend reading his blog to figure out how it is possible). My husband and I are not as extreme as he is, and are not committed to all that is required to sacrifice to make it work, but I still love his overall message. I read Mr. Money Mustache's blog constantly, and it is a great reminder to me of what really matters- and it has nothing to do with spending money!

However, this particular read was really heavy and a tough read. Mr. Fisker is incredibly smart and he went over my head a lot with all of his graphs and statistics and such. His ideas are fascinating, however. I just recommend the blog mentioned above over this book. Though the blog does have some cussing, it is a much more enjoyable read. (Mr. Fisker did have a blog in the past, but he doesn't update it anymore as he has decided to move on and do other things and passed the reigns on to Mr. Money Mustache).

Rating: 2.5 of 5

So, there you have it. If any of you have any other suggestions related to this topic, I would love to hear them. This is what I have learned as I have read: Even in trying to make investing simple, it is incredibly complicated. As a society, we need to do better at teaching each other, and our children, about this important topic so we can retire in dignity- not in the poorhouse!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Unbroken: A World War Two Story of Survival, Resiliance, and Redemption

Title: Unbroken
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Rating: Two Stars OR 5 Starts

I just finished this book today, and I am not sure whether to rate it as a 2 or a 5.

This book recites the harrowing details of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner turned POW survivor. It depicts his life from birth until his now 90's- including shaking the hand of Adolf Hitler at the 1936 games in Berlin, his divine survival from 47 days of drifting in the Pacific Ocean on a raft, and turning to Christ to learn how to forgive his tormentors after surviving a Japanese POW camp.

Laura Hillenbrand is brilliant in her story-telling. I felt like I grew up with Zamperini as a close friend, and later that I was in Japan experiencing the torture that befell the POW's. That was the greatness and the difficulty of this novel.

Louis' story must be read. His story must live on forever- for us to remember not only all that we owe to so many men and women who lost their lives not only in WWII but in all other wars that have been fought, but also to remember the horrendous viciousness that occurs during war so that we can avoid it in the future. That is why it deserves a 5-star rating: a brilliantly told true story of a great war hero that should never be forgotten.

However, this is an incredibly difficult read. It embodies everything I dislike about WWII literature: I hate reading that there are people on this earth who are so cruel as to enjoy the severe suffering of others. In WWII, the Japanese were satanic in their punishments to their captives, and this book does not hold back in the retelling of the torture. The images of what they inflicted on other human beings makes me literally ill- and it was hard to read. Based on the subject matter and the perfect imagery that Hillenbrand created of this most despicable behavior, I want to rate it a 2- meaning, this is an incredibly hard read.

I really do believe every American should read this novel- it should be required reading in High School. But, I will never read it again. And if a movie comes out, I will skip that as well.

Has this review confused you enough?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Cookbook Collector

Title: The Cookbook Collector
By: Allegra Goodman

I do not think it is possible for me to describe how much I loathe this book, but I will try.

I was told this book was about two sisters and how their relationship evolves. Having several sisters myself, I thought I would be able to relate. Plus, several reviewers had said that Allegra Goodman was the new Jane Austen, so how could I go wrong?

Well, how could this book go so wrong? Or, what was right with this book? Nothing was right- it was all wrong.

Jane Austen would be appalled to find herself compared to Ms. Goodman. Ms. Austen's books told stories of love, patience, understanding, sacrifice. Goodman's book was the exact opposite- nothing but lust, greed, and selfishness.

It is the story of several characters and their experiences of the dotcom bust of the early 2000's. It goes through their rise and fall- from nothing to absolute wealth to nothing again. Several characters emerge- far too many to keep track of. All the characters sleep around with so called boyfriends or girlfriends, who then cheat on them, and then go on to their next romance based on lust and- not surprisingly- doomed for failure.  One boyfriend betrays his fiancee's trust and confidence in order to obtain wealth and prestige for himself. Nice. Another character gets engaged to a man who doesn't even want his friends to meet her because she is half his age and not his type. He insists that he loves her, even though every time they are together all they do is have sex. I am sure that relationship will work out in the end.

Not only could I not relate to any of the characters, I had absolutely no desire to relate to any of them. I thought they were all disgusting people and in real life I do everything in my power to avoid people like them.

If this was a movie, it would be rated R. Based on the reviews, I gave a copy of this book to my mother-in-law for Christmas. I have had to apologize, and I am incredibly embarrassed that I gave her such a horrible book. Cuss words abound, and there is not one redeeming quality I can think of to describe this book.

I will give this book 1.5 stars. The ONLY reason it is getting that extra half star is because there is a Jodi Picoult book that I hate even more, and that book deserves the lowest rating of all. 

Monday, April 25, 2011


Juliet by Anne Fortier

(I admit to stealing this review off of I apologize for that, but for some reason I am not able to put into my own words my thoughts on this book other than I thought it was an incredibly fun read)

This is a very well thought out and well written debut effort by Ms. Fortier, in which she mixes Shakespear's Tragedy with a popular romance novel and a dash of the Da Vinci Code.

The story follows American Julie Jacobs on a quest to Siena, Italy to retrace her Ancestry. She soon discovers that she is a direct descendant of Giulietta Tomei, the inspiration for Shakespear's Juliet. She also finds the descendants of the two feuding families from the tale of "Romeo and Juliet" are still living in Siena and still feuding. Julie is helped in her attempt to uncover the past a contessa and the contessa's handsome nephew (love interest). There is also an assorted quirky cast of Italian police, mobsters, and locals.

Julie's search involves old paintings, a journal, old relics, and antique texts. A good part of the fun of this book is unraveling the mystery, but the the heart breaking love story is also well represented. If had to find fault with the book is it does not know quite what it wants to be, historical fiction or romance novel, but then again that was part of the fun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Irresistible Revolution

The Irresistible Revolutioun: Living Life As An Ordinary Radical
By: Shane Claiborne

I am not exactly sure how to describe this book.

Revolutionary? Probably.
Thought provoking? Definitely.
Life-Changing? Hopefully.

This is a book about a man who is trying to live his life as closely as Christ would have him live as possible. That means, to him, that he goes to Calcutta to serve with Mother Theresa. He goes to Iraq to serve the victims of the war. He opens up a "community" house in the ghettos of Philadelphia where the homeless and the lonely are welcome. He dedicates his life to serving the poor- and in this book he teaches us the things he has learned along the way.

I found that he eloquently expresses many of the things that I have always felt. For example, he takes on the Christian Right for not only turning Christianity into politics, but in boiling Christianity to two issues: sex and abortion, while ignoring so many other tenets of the life Christ lived. This is something that has always bothered me, and I am glad somebody finally spoke up against it.

That is not to say that Shane is a democrat. In fact, he despises the democrats just as much.  He calls himself "anti-politics" and on the 2004 ballot he wrote "Jesus" as the write-in candidate.

So this book is not about politics- though it is mentioned.

It is more a book about how we, as a society, have veered from the path that Christ would have us lead.

The book leaves you wondering not what it means to be Christian, but what it  means to be a follower of Christ- and whether or not we, as supposed Christians, are living up to that ideal.

He talked about a survey he took of several hundred Christians. He asked them if Christ walked with and helped the poor. 80% said yes. Later in the survey, he asked if they had actually walked with the poor and physically served the poor. Only 2% said yes.

He says we, as a society, have set up layers so we don't actually have to interact with the poor- we can donate our money to our charity and feel good about ourselves, but we don't actually come in contact with a homeless person to understand their circumstances and understand why they are in this situation. He insists that if we did, poverty would end as we would literally open up our coffers to help those in need- just as Jesus has asked us to do, but so many of us are unwilling to actually do.

He quotes Gandhi who said, "I like your Christ. But I do not like your Christians- they are so unlike your Christ."

Many of his thoughts are things I have thought for years, and it is refreshing to see somebody live his life in exact preciseness to how he felt Christ lived. He doesn't just talk the talk- he walks the walk.

I live in the suburbs with my spare bedrooms and extra mattresses while there are single mothers with children sleeping under bridges.

So now this book has left me wondering: What can I do to truly serve the poor? Not just donate money- but actually serve them face to face. To let them change me- to change my heart- so that I become a better disciple of Christ.

Finding the answer is my next quest.

(I should point out that I do not agree with everything he says- I do not agree with all of his Biblical interpretations, and I certainly do not agree that he is a prophet, as some of his followers do. But, the overall message I do agree with, and that is why I highly recommend this book)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities

By Amy Stewart

I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this book is just so pretty. And it doesn't end with the cover. The pages inside? Swoon. This book best resembles an old notebook kept by your talented artist/botanist/genius great-aunt. The pages have that faded, brown-edged look of an old book. (I know it's fake, but still.) The book is heavily illustrated; the etchings of each plant are just gorgeous.
The illustrations are a little, well, eccentric. They're by an artist that once worked for Tim Burton, so that should give you an idea. But I love the way this book looks.

The subject matter is engaging, to a point. About midway through the book, I felt like the book got a little repetitive as plant after plant induced nausea, heart failure and rashes. But it's an interesting read nonetheless, and if you forge on, the plants get a little more creative in their attempts to kill us all (impaling, exploding, devouring small creatures, etc.). I do have a residual feeling that maybe nature wants me dead, but I suppose I'll get over it. And the contents are divided into snippets, perfect for the busy mom that only has a few minutes at a time to read between (hopefully non plant-related) catastrophes.

Appearance: 5 stars.
Contents: 3 stars.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Hrm. Quick overview of this lovely trilogy..

And if you've not read any of these, this probably won't make any sense. So. Sorry. In advance.

Book one -

Men definitely hate women in this one - A LOT, Nazis and big corporations are the roots of all evil - OF COURSE, who needs big boobs anyway (or I mean boobs at all), or condoms for that matter, or to be faithful to one's spouse.., and all those names..good grief. My review of this one is here.

Book two -

The giant blond dude from Rocky IV/man who feels no pain from the Brosnan (slash fake) Bond movies makes an appearance and boy is he pissed, Lisbeth is actually in this one - like she does stuff and everything (I mean everything), again with the names...holy crap....but this one by far my favorite of the three.

Book three -

Lisbeth is in the hospital and now she's pissed, duct tape cures all ills (my husband slash life partner could've told them that!), hot Amazon women are attracted to middle-aged, over-weight men, Lisbeth is still in the hospital.., ack, those names! I wanted to ram my head into the wall they were so confusing, Salander is still in the hospital..., stalkers are always skinny nerdy men, Swede's like to use the word whore a lot, giant blond freak makes an appearance at the beginning and the exact end of the book - in between I completely forgot about him, wha? Salander finally leaves the hospital?? Just in time to save the day? Not really, and the mysterious sister? She never shows...ah, come on!!

A really funny take on this series is in The New Yorker. I laughed myself silly it was so. spot. on.

3 stars

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Housekeeping: Family Vegetarian Cooking

Title: Family Vegetarian Cooking

By: Good Housekeeping

I know it is strange to write a review on a cookbook, but I wanted to give a HUGE shoutout to this book!
About a month ago my husband and I decided to go more vegetarian- we are absolutely not cutting out meat completely, but we wanted to try to incorporate more meatless meals into our family. I had no idea what to expect in trying this out, because we used to eat meat at EVERY meal except breakfast (and even then we had sausage sometimes).
I was mostly worried that meatless meals would not be filling- for me, meat has always been the main course. Another major problem, was that I had approximately ZERO meatless recipes and nowhere to turn to get them.
I came across this cookbook and I am absolutely in love with it!!!! There are lots of pictures (a mandatory requirement for me and cookbooks), the recipes are fairly easy and do not require a ton of prep, and it goes into the basics of being a vegetarian and how to still get all of the nutrients you need. The best part: Every recipe I have tried (except one) has been absolutely DELICIOUS- I kid you not, these are some of the best recipes I have ever made and we LOVE our food!!! I feel like a gourmet chef making these simple but exotic recipes. YUM! (One sad note: they have a smaller version of this cookbook with a recipe for Greek Feta Pitas- by far our favorite meal. Unfortunately, for some reason that recipe is not in this larger version, which is very sad. If you want that recipe, leave a comment and I will get your e-mail from Lula and send it to you!)
Much to my delight, all the recipes leave us feeling full and satisfied- no more worries about needing meat to fill us up! The meals taste so much healthier- centered around grains and produce instead of meat. Honestly, both my husband and I now don't even really like to eat meat anymore- we much prefer the vegetarian meals. Another bonus: it's cheaper! Beans cost less than meat, so that has been a nice change as well.
I am absolutely NOT trying to convert anybody into being a vegetarian- like I said, we are not vegetarians! But, if you are looking for more meatless meals, I HIGHLY recommend this cookbook. It is wonderful!
Rating: 5 of 5.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Disappearing Spoon

By Sam Kean

I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, and for me, that’s really...well, unusual. If you had asked me a couple of years ago how I felt about non-fiction, I would have described it as eye-glazingly dull, a dry recitation of facts. But now I actually scour the non-fiction shelves at the library eagerly. I know -- it’s crazy!

The only explanation is that non-fiction has gotten better. (It can’t be me that’s changed.) The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean is a fine example of this better, more interesting non-fiction. Kean doesn’t skimp on the facts. He’s packed his book with oodles of information about the elements. What saves his book from being merely a mind-numbing collection of elemental characteristics may be gleaned from the book’s full title: The Disappearing Spoon and Other Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements.

Yes, it’s the madness and weirdness that brings the elements to life, and Kean seems to have dug up a fascinating story for virtually every element on the periodic table. For example, the title’s disappearing spoon refers to a (nerdy) practical joke in which unsuspecting victims are given a gallium spoon to stir their tea. I was particularly interested in the stories surrounding the radioactive elements, which ranged from an ex-KGB spy that was murdered with polonium-laced sushi in 2006 to a boy scout that tried to build his own nuclear reactor.

Reading non-fiction like this is not only painless, but fun, and I’m convinced that I’m retaining all of those pesky little facts better that I normally would because I’ve so enjoyed learning them. Just wait until we meet at the next dinner party and I regale you with tales of elemental hijinks. If you’ve long despaired of enjoying non-fiction, perhaps now is the time to give it another try.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Parenting Breakthrough

The Parenting Breakthrough

By: Merrilee Browne Boyack

Her Website:

This is a parenting book available through Deseret Book and I thought I would post a review because overall I thought it was really good. If you are looking for ways to teach your children to work and accomplish goals such as saving for a mission and college, this may be the book for you.

The premise is centered around "The Plan"- a list of accomplishments beginning at age 3 that you would like your children to master- everything from baking cakes from scratch to learning the difference between mutual funds and CD's. Basically, each year the children are required to learn life skills necessary for conquering the world.

I am quite sold on "The Plan." I really like it as an overall strategy to teaching children to work. I also like her take on allowances and dealing with money, which she goes into detail in the book.

Like most parenting books, however, there were parts I did not like/agree with. It felt like towards the end she was getting rather preachy, and that annoyed me. Also, some of her methods I would definitely not use- for example, she teaches that if your child does not make their bed or finish their morning chores, you take them out of school until they do finish. Being an educator, I want my children to know that education is vitally important, and so I believe they should be punished in some other way- having after school priveledges taken away, etc. Love and Logic has some great solutions for those kind of problems and I like their discipline program much better than hers (she does openly admit her book is NOT a discipline/behavior book, and I found that often when she touched upon discipline I preferred the Love and Logic methods much better).

I think in most self-help books there are parts to take away and parts that just don't quite work. I found this to be the case with this book as well. A very good book with some excellent, practical skills, and some parts that I would not use.

Overall: 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Half Way Mark..

The year's half over..
Didn't summer just start?
Where has all the time gone..sigh.
Not that anyone cares, but I like to take stock occasionally, either to feel good about, or worse about how much time I've been reading instead of cleaning my house..
Book totals so far this year:
35 finished - including:
2 Young Adult
12 Non-fiction
5 are what I might call Romances which means, there may have been kissing..or other stuff..
6 Classics
1 book of Poetry by TS Elliot
1 Play by Tom Stoppard
1 Oprah Book Club pick , yesss, surprise, surprise..
And everything else would probably fall somewhere in with popular fiction, or where ever the wind was blowing me at the time.
My favorite so far?
Regular fiction - probably The Princess Bride. Hands down just as entertaining as the movie.
Nonfiction - I really enjoyed learning about Mary Todd Lincoln. She was a fascinating woman way ahead of her time. A fulfilling yet terribly sad life.
I'm in the middle of -
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - totally loving this, dirty fingernails and all.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (for bookclub)
Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism edited by Maxine Hanks. I'm reading this essay by essay over the summer
After these -
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin
Because my life isn't complicated enough. Apparently..
Anybody else want to share their favorites so far this year, please feel free. If not, then please go outside and soak up that stinking sun while it lasts! And turn the computer off for crying out loud!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Ah, those hazy summer days. Sitting on my porch rocking chair with my bare foot dangling lazily over the arm rest whilst I rest peacefully over the other one. So relaxed my eyelids hover within centimeters of each other..


If only that were true. More likely scenario, I'm grabbing a few pages here and there while stuffing my face with Doritos and rubbing the skin off my sunburned nose while absentmindedly sort of watching my kids play/pretend not to drown in the neighborhood pool.

But alas, sigh, it's still the perfect time to read me some Heyer. The funniest one I've read of her's so far, this one did not disappoint. Taking place when England was at war with the soon to be United States, all the classic Heyer is included - kidnapping, mistaken identity, more kissing than usual, her favorite word, odious, among others - she has the knack for entering just the right word at just the right time. My heart swooned as always at her dashing, unaffected hero, and I laughed out loud more than once at a group of bumbling goofballs who in the end are at least as funny as Bottom and his acting troupe from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and that's saying something..

Yet again, I can't help but wonder: why aren't any of her books made into movies??

I'd be first in line if they were.
A great romantic comedy to read while on those cement beach sides. Just make sure a lifeguard is present lest you get distracted by those throbbing loins...

4 stars

Be sure to check out Book Review Wednesday's!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann

After reading this, I've learned something about myself...I love reading about other people's problems, especially famous, super rich people. I lap it up like a dog attached to a soup bone. I don't want to know what that says about me..

Some suspicions that were confirmed by this book:

- Bill Clinton is just as gross as I assumed he was. Smart, but ew. Ew. Eeewwww!

- Hillary swears like a f%$#^&king sailor. You rock,#^^$&#@*&, Hillary! And surprise, surprise, she may actually love her husband! Go figure!

- McCain had an affair in the 90's with someone my age.. gosh. Can you imagine? Probably you shouldn't. That gag reflex is a hard one to control.

- Biden didn't get along too well during the campaign. Really?? By the way, where is Joe Biden? Sounds like a book name doesn't it. Has anyone seen Joe Biden on the news lately? What, he fall of the face of the Earth?

- My biggest surprise of the book?? I actually came off feeling slightly bad for Sarah Palin.. Yes, I know, I'm currently clutching my chest and breathing heavily at the thought of it.

Ah, you poor, poor multi-millionaires. Life would be rough without you for entertainment. As for me, I'd rather have my feet scraped than run for office...(And I'll mail you a pretend dollar if you know from what movie that last line is from...except you Suzette..)
A must read for any political junkie..
4 stars.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

If the fact that our sun will probably burn out in 4 billion years and our beloved Earth will turn into a huge ball of black rock because of it (until it's vaporized that is) bothers you, keeps you up in the night, this book might not be for you. If you're worried about an asteroid hitting somewhere between Hawaii and California in 2039 and Idaho becoming ocean front property (hmm, maybe an improvement?), then this book might not be for you. If you're worried about what might happen to you if you inadvertently get a little, tinsy bit too close to a black hole of death (even your atoms get pulled apart), I might not read this book.

Because, if you thought your ulcer was healing and you could eat salsa with your chips. Think again! A collection of essays about a myriad of cosmic topics from Natural History magazine written by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (you've probably seen him on PBS, and no he's not the night sky guy with the weird voice), this book entertains. Frightens. Enlightens! And inevitably makes you feel much, much smarter for reading it. But believe me, sometimes this knowledge is a scary, scary thing! In fact, now I'd like to take some of it back. Oh, brain atrophy!

Except for a few about half way through that made my eyes start to glaze over, I found most of these essays really interesting and readable. Tyson is obviously one of those well known science professionals who is actually interested in, and good at, teaching (believe it or not!) instead of just doing research and publishing. So yes, they do exist..

Way, oh way back in the dark ages when I was in college I took a series of physics classes from an astronaut named Don Lind. He was a cocky ass who said stuff like, if you ever get a chance to fly in space.. . I wanted to slap him...anyway, I remember learning about prisms and color and how our brain interprets it, and thinking that was the coolest thing! I remember telling my twelve year old sister about it, about how a prism works and why we are able to see that myriad of colors without moving our eyes (look it up, it's really cool!). She looked at me like I was a martian from outer space who'd just landed and interrupted an episode of Get Smart, and made fun of me for years because of it.

Well, neiner neiner. Now I feel vindicated.
Sort of..
Crap, she's probably still making fun of me.
Oh well..
4 stars

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Abigail Adams: A Life by Woody Holton

Abigail Adams.
Doctor, therapist, teacher, entrepreneur, politician, mother, and wife, in no particular order at any particular time.
She was everything.
She was nothing.
And she knew it.

And it made me a bit sad for one main reason: in this age of the crappily short emails, texts, whatever, I thought of the lost art of letter writing. I learned an immense amount of really interesting, meaty stuff about the revolution and the people in it, specifically the women and their take on this war that affected them profoundly, because Abigail Adams was a fantastic, carefully opinionated letter writer.

If she hadn't been married to that great politician John Adams, if he hadn't been away from home as much as he was (and that was a lot, up to five years at a time - like half their married life), we wouldn't have this treasure trove of information. And it was really, really cool.

This is a good book, especially the second half when the war really picks up, how she deals with her children and family life, the rivalry between Adams and Jefferson, presidential life for wife and husband. Speaking of Mr. Adams, she rarely agreed with him. She was so feisty and opinionated for her time. An American Revolutionary heroine, a rambunctious feminist icon. The bread and butter of women's history.
4 stars