Thursday, March 23, 2017

BOOK: Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Rachel Swaby

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Rachel Swaby, 226 pages, plus 50 pages of notes, bibliography, and index

A 2013 obituary in the NYT for Yvonne Brill started with 'world's greatest mom' and followed up with describing how she made a mean beef stroganoff and followed her husband around in his work. Eventually, her work as a rocket scientist made the obit. The uproar over this lack of respect was the inspiration for this wonderful biography of 52 STEM women. Two main criteria - no longer living women, and not Marie Curie. Not disrespecting Marie Curie, she's just usually the first woman scientist, or the only one, that gets mentioned. Swaby does a great job writing, keeping things light, sometimes sarcastic but jam-packed with details, and makes this an easy to read and highly interesting book.

Some names I knew - Mary Anning, Rosalyn Franklin, Rachel Carson and because I have a poster called 'Women in Science' in my classroom, Maria Mitchell, Lise Mietner, Ada Lovelace, Maria Goeppert Mayer, and Barbara McClintock. I didn't always know the specifics of their contribution but this book filled in the gaps. The categories of study were divided into Medicine, Biology and the Environment, Genetics and Development, Physics, Earth and Stars, Math and Technology, and Invention.

Each woman gets a short (3-6 page) biography, with a little about their life, but mostly about their love of their subject, and the tenacity that was required to do the work they did. Many had to work in universities for no money because women technically weren't allowed in. Too many worked with collaborators who took the credit.

The nature of the book means that I don't remember the name and the contribution of very many of the women. Too much info for a reader like me who doesn't take in names very well. The overall effort and contributions will be remembered however. I think I would really like to have this book as a resource in my classroom, to be able to look up scientist and her work, and her challenge.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

BOOK: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen

                                                               Beware the Kitten Holy

                                                                 Friendship to the Max


                                                                     A Terrible Plan

                                                                      Out of Time

                                                                      Band Together

These graphic novels are a wonderful series! A group of five diverse girls from one bunk house, along with their semi-hapless bunk leader, find themselves in a series of adventures. The adventures have a supernatural element - other worlds, mermaids, werewolves, monsters that sneak into the otherwise real life setting of the books. Each book I read was a compilation of four individual comic books that combine into one story arc. The end of the volume also contains extra artwork, which seems to be many other cartoonists' take on the characters,  or other covers for each comic. 

The girls (Mal, Ripley, Molly, April, and Jo) are great friends, and respect each others strengths and quirks. There is lots of humour in the books. Even the names of characters are based on famous people. I recognize some - I assume Ripley is from Alien and Jo is a little woman. Their bunk leader, Jen, is continually misnamed by the camp director, as those J names can be easily confused. One of my favourite parts of the books is the exclamatives pronounced instead of swearing, that are famous (women) names. I miss a good number of them, but as soon as you recognize one, you realize that all the names are famous kick-ass women. What in the Joan Jett? It is such a cool part of the books that there are websites which document the names, and gives a biography of them. Here's a good one. I'm very pleased with myself when I recognize one.


There are lots of great details, including the badge requirements, the pledge, and the supporting characters - the Scouting Lads across the lake show up sometimes, but the girls always save the day. 



Which Lumberjane Are You?

You got: April

You’re small but mighty! When push comes to shove, you’ve got a cute scrunchie and two fists. Your friends need the perfect nail polish to go with their skirt? A stone god defeated to save the day? You’re the one they call.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books on my Spring TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. The topic last week was Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR List. I totally missed this one last week but it's my favourite lists to do each quarter so I'm making my list a week late. Oops! My books consist of nonfiction, mysteries from a series, Canadian authors, and audiobooks I have on request.



Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Murder Trial that Shocked a Nation
by Charlotte Gray

Icarus by Deon Meyer
Book #5 in Benny Griessel series set in South Africa

Field Notes: A City Girl's Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia
 by Sarah Jewell
Canadian Nonfiction

Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Nonfiction audiobook about Seinfeld!

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
Gets me up to date on Will Trent mystery series, audiobook

Knucklehead by Matt Lennox
Canada Reads longlisted book

Shrill by Lindy West
Nonfiction feminist book

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Audiobook on request, Canadian, and
Bailey's Prize long-listed book

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
book club book

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
by John Vaillant
Nonfiction, Canadian author


Monday, March 20, 2017

BOOK: March Volume 1,2, and 3 by John Lewis




I've undertaken a spontaneous modern American history self-directed course in this past year. First, it was listening to Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin. The title mentions Vietnam, but it really was about how Nixon and Watergate happened. Fascinating!

The next  was Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez. This was in my recent memory as I can remember the American hostages saved by the Canadian ambassador in Iran in 1980. 

Finally, I've read the three volume set March by John Lewis. Lewis was involved in a little spat with Trump back in January around the time of the inauguration. I happened to have requested this book at the library just a week or so before that all blew up and these graphic novels flew to #1 on Amazon. I really didn't know anything about Lewis before January, and now having read his memoir, I am amazed and humbled by what Lewis accomplished in the 1960s, along side Martin Luther King Jr.

The construct of the book, framing Lewis' memories of the Civil Rights battle of the 1960s with Obama's inauguration in 2008 was extremely powerful and moving. The horrific situations of segregation and violence that were still going on in the 60s made me sick. Clearly, Trump is not familiar with Lewis' life because Lewis deserves to be a national treasure and revered along side Martin Luther King Jr. and can not be considered, as Trump tweeted, "All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"  If ever there was a person who was not all talk, it was John Lewis. His principled life of non-violence and action were eye-opening.

Everyone should read this book. (Can someone send Trump a copy?)

Monday, March 6, 2017

BOOK: Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry, 480 pages

Booker Shortlist 2002

I've had this book for a long time, as it sat patiently, waiting to be read. I read A Fine Balance back in 2004, and then the rest of Mistry's books: Tales from Firozsha Bay (short stories)  and Such a Long Journey, even a short story book, The Scream.  And, I am realizing that Mistry hasn't published a new book since 2002. ( The short story was in 2006.) Come on fella, you write such good books, we'd like another one!

This one is a family story, set in Bombay, dealing with an aging father. Families are complicated and messy and supportive and not, all at the same time. What I liked was how similar families are every where, and how real the characters were.

Summary from Amazon:
At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in the inaptly named Chateau Felicity), but are too squeamish and resentful to tend to his physical needs. 

Nariman must now turn to his younger daughter, Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, who share a small, crowded home.


The family is Parsi, a minority in Bombay. The added pressure on their finances strains Yezad and Roxana's relationship. Yezad was so interesting - in some ways a bad guy (impatient and cranky), but also a good guy (kind and trying his best). He was just flawed, not happy with how life has turned out but helpless to make many changes. Really, not much happens but at the time, everything is a big deal. Mistry writes such great characters, dealing with tough situations that by the end of the book, the reader is cheering for things to turn out (relatively) okay, and I did drop a few tears, both happy and sad.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

BOOK: The End of the Alphabet and Captured Hearts

The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson, 142 pages

Wispy little book about a couple, facing the last month of the husband's life.  Ambrose Zephyr and Zappora Ashkenazi decide to travel the world from A to Z. We see them go to Amsterdam, Berlin and so on. (Around G I started checking if this would be all twenty-six letters, but his health begins to fail, and N-Z get lumped together.)
Eh, it was okay. I didn't get the beauty in the writing, but some reviews adore it; the characters were odd, rather literary; not depressing considering the topic.
I read this for my book club, and we all found it harmless, but it made little impression on any of us. We all agreed - at least it was short!


Captured Hearts: New Brunswick's War Brides by Melynda Jarratt, 148 pages
New Brunswick Military History Series (see also The Neighbourly War)

This is a nice little series of local history books. Although set in New Brunswick, I imagine the PEI experience was very similar for war brides. During WW2, many of the Canadian soldiers met and married girls from England and Europe. Some of the chapters explain the situations that led to this (the local boys were off fighting, the Canadian boys were in England and, mostly, just there to be dancing and hanging out with. Never underestimate the power of proximity in finding true love)

The book is well researched, and includes many anecdotes about the war brides, lots of pictures and maps. There are chapters about the English brides, and then the continental brides, the expectations and disappointments that met the brides as they arrived to join their husbands; and the fitting in that took place. Much of rural New Brunswick had no running water or electricity and some women found it quite and adjustment and perhaps they were given a different view of where they were headed. Many stuck it out, but there were also brides who turned around and went back home, some for very good reason. The stiff upper lip, you made your bed, attitude prevailed for a lot of women.

I didn't really realize how much the women in Britain did during the war. I knew they worked, drove ambulances and the gardening, but at one point, there were essentially conscripted into work for the homefront. That led to some of the adjustments, as these women were working, independent members of society, and then came to Canada and had, in many cases, 8-12 children and worked the farm. Just realizing how many 'lives' they lived is pretty impressive.




Saturday, March 4, 2017

CHALLENGE: Women in Science History



Hosted by doingdewey, this looks like a great idea. And I just read Lab Girl in February - it would be a perfect book to read. However, I've found a few other books that look good. I certainly won't get all these books read this month, but it was fun looking for books about real women in science (either fictional accounts or nonfiction) and remembering some books I've already read.

My recommendations:
Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel
Miss Leavitt’s Stars by George Johnson
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevaliere (novel about Mary Anning)
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren


The books I am interested in reading:

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Change Science by Rachel Swaby

Obsessive Genious: The Inner World of Marie Curie by Barbara Goldsmith
Finding Wonders: 3 Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
The Stargazer's Sister by Carrie Brown (fiction)
Maria Mitchell: The Soul of an Astronomer by Beatrice Gormley
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict (fiction)
The Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt (audiobook)
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (audiobook)



Even if I only get a couple read this month, I've got a list of books to come back to. I found this challenge at doingdewey, a blog I found last November during Nonfiction November. At that point, I was disappointed that I had read so few nonfiction books during the year. I read only 16 nonfiction books in 2016, and already I've read 16 nonfiction books in 2017. So, much better effort!







Saturday, February 25, 2017

BOOK: Argo by Antonio Mendez

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez ( 9 h 28 min)
nararted by Dylan Baker

This was a rollicking great listen! And now I want to see the movie Ben Affleck made about this.

I can vaguely remember the incident in 1980: six Americans were hidden in the Canadian embassy, and eventually Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor got them out. There were still many other Americans still in the American embassy, held by Iranian students.

In this memoir, Antonio Mendez, a former CIA operative tells his (major) role in the caper. I found all the intelligence information very interesting, especially with all the Intelligence talk in the news lately. He was a 'art forger', which means he made documents. He describes many previous operations he was involved in, and how he ended up in the CIA. Eventually he is involved in trying to ferry the hidden Americans out of Iran, no easy task.

It appears that the CIA at the time, did not want any media notice of their involvement, so allowed Ken Taylor to get all the accolades. The movie and this book tell a different story now, but both sides took plenty of risks, and Taylor kept the Americans in his house for six weeks at great personal peril.

Great insight into the intelligence community (albeit, what they've decided to share here) and a look at moment in history that is still having repercussions today.

Dylan Baker, who played the evil, rich crazy murderer on The Good Wife does an excellent job narrating.



Friday, February 17, 2017

BOOK: The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner

The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner, 272 pages

review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada

Sometimes I have conflicting issues with amnesia stories. It can be an easy trope for authors to have information with held from the reader. This can conflict with my enjoyment of suspenseful thrillers. Luckily, both work well in this book. Actually, as amnesia stories go, this is one of the better ones.

Because it is hard to know how much to describe in a thriller, synopsis from Amazon:

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.


Narrating the story in first person from Kyra's point of view really amped up the suspense since the reader only knows what Kyra finds out. As some snatches of memory return but with no context, Kyra begins to question what might be going on, and what might have happened. Then, she has to judge the answers she gets because she doesn't know who to really trust. 

As a reader, the amnesia issue means I am on guard all the time, knowing that there is some big reveal going to happen. It can be stressful to read a book like that, because I am looking for clues all the time and suspecting everyone! At times I'd be thinking No Kyra, that doesn't seem right! As you can see, I got invested in the plot and was happy with the speed at which things happened. I will say I was surprised with the ending and enjoyed the read, which went very quickly. The suspense and character development kept me on the edge of my reading seat.











Thursday, February 16, 2017

BOOK: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken, 380 pages

About a month ago, I borrowed a random audiobook in my quest to read more nonfiction, called 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Years of SNL from Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis. I reviewed it here, but found it ultimately boring. In my review, I said I should have read an Al Franken book instead. (This was around the time of the Devos Education hearings, and Al impressed me.)

So I did. I found this older book, published in 2003 long before he became Senator Franken. How could you forget the title?  Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. As I started reading the book, I was wishing it was more recent. So much was focused on Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and George  W Bush. Other than Bush, those other guys are still commenting and around. With all the presidential news these days, Dubya has been fondly remembered, but this book brought back all the stuff about him in his day. Trump is still horrific, but Bush the younger was terrible too and the comparisons now have brightened his image. Good to be reminded of life from only 13 years ago.

The premise of the book is the conservative right saying that the media has a liberal bias, and Al attempts to refute that claim. Sadly, the divide between left and right has only grown since this book was written. Al does a terrific and hilarious job pointing out the hypocrisy and lies of the right. I'm not so naive enough to think he hasn't swung the pendulum farther to the left in his defense, but I didn't care. He is my kind of funny, (I always liked Stuart Smalley) and most of what he says fits in my narrative of life anyway. 

a few (timely) mentions that stood out -
page 188 On C-Span's Washington Journal that morning, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway, one of the Republican party's most loyal flaks,...

page 289 Of course he was lying. Or was he? Maybe [Hannity] was just confused. Sean may be evil, but he's not smart.

page 301 [in reference to the estate/death tax] Which is more important? Making sure Ivanka Trump will be able to live in the style to which she's grown accustomed even after The Donald has left our world?

Franken is funny and smart. The book impressed me, and his work in the Senate that I've seen recently does too. I'd definitely read another of his books. Funny, and I feel a bit smarter after reading it. And doggone it, people like me!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

BOOK: The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson, 180 pages

This was such a great book! Neil deGrasse Tyson, everyone's favourite astrophysicist*, has written a book (it's from 2009, so not recent, especially in scientific terms) about how Pluto got demoted, and his role in the controversy. I saw this marked down at Indigo and grabbed it up. I love reading about the story of Pluto and this will add to my classroom collection, including How I Killed Pluto, and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown, (review ) and some children's books I ordered from Scholastic.

Tyson has a great sense of humour and is able to make fun of himself and his role in the demotion. It actually started when he was hired to help produce a rebuilt Hayden Planetarium for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. (I would love to see this place!) As they try to demonstrate size in space, the oddball Pluto gets left out of a display because it is not a inner rock planet (like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) or an outer gaseous planet (like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune). It's an ice planet in the Kuiper belt and now we know there are a whole bunch more there.

Chapters called Pluto in Culture, Pluto in History, and Pluto in Science set the beginning. Then Pluto's Fall From Grace (due to the discovery of Eris) and Pluto Divides the Nation lead to Pluto's Judgment Day and finally, Pluto the Dwarf Planet. An updated chapter with the new pictures taken by the New Horizon's probe (launched in 2006) that flew by Pluto in 2015 would really add to the book.



There are lots of pictures, lots of letters from school kids sent to Tyson during the debate. Tyson lays out the different arguments fairly, even though his opinion is clear. This book was so thorough and easy to read, I highly recommend it!


*my opinion, but are there other astrophysicists in the running?**


**Maybe Fritz Zwicky, noted curmudgeon, lol

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BOOK: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, 280 pages

I'm a science girl. I was a chemistry major in university, and now I teach physics. Biology wasn't exactly my favourite subject but I appreciate the science of plants. I loved this book and have been telling all my science teacher friends about this book.

Interesting side fact: our high school science department is significantly female. At one point we had 1 male teacher out of about nine of us. We have another one or two males teaching some science courses now, but we are a department of Lab Girls.

Jahren is a geobiologist and the book covers many aspects. Her home life and how she became interested in science, her struggles with getting funding and setting up labs, life as a female scientist in a male dominated profession, her struggles with mental health, and the adventures she has with her long-time lab assistant Bill. As well, there are lovely short passages describing trees and all the life processes of trees. There is enough biology if you like that but not so much that it feels like a textbook. Underlying the biology is the love and passion Jahren has for her subject.

The writing was lovely throughout. The sections that dealt with her mental health and her pregnancy were so well done. She writes personally, but I didn't feel like the other people in her life were exploited in any way by her sharing. At one point, I was worried something terrible was going to happen to someone in her life (like a divorce, or death) but this is not that kind of book. She integrated the biology, the personal, and the professional so well that I could not state the main focus of the book, and I enjoyed all the parts.

A well-written book on any topic is a delight. It is why you can read a book on a topic that you don't usually read and enjoy it immensely. Hope Jahren is that kind of writer and I look forward to reading another book by her.

Here's a picture of the biggest tree on PEI, found in Victoria, PEI. Sorry there are no leaves but our trees spend a good portion of their lives dormant. You can read the book to understand that whole process in more detail.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BOOK: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai


I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Got Shot by the Taliban - Malala Yousafzai (9 h 55 min)

Such an inspiring book! Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls going to school in Pakistan. Her strength and intelligence was such a threat. Little did they realize that she would not be stopped, and her voice for girls eventually led her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Archie Punjabi, the wonderful actor from The Good Wife. What I really liked about the book was all the history of Pakistan and Afghanistan that led up to the Taliban rise and seeing how different yet the same families can be.

Malala's father was so courageous and supportive of his daughter, insisting that she be educated. Rather humbling to realize my first child was also born in 1997 like Malala. Our lives have been significantly less tumultuous.

Wonderful read with history, bravery, and feminism.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

BOOK: Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot

Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot, 270 pages

There are two getting over Edgar parts for Gwen in this story. First, her husband of twenty years up and leaves her with no warning. This throws poor passive Gwen into a tailspin. Forty years old and she hasn't worked, struggled with fertility and now her lawyer husband has abandoned her. This should be enough for a book, but Edgar ends up having bigger problems, what with his car getting stuck on the tracks and then struck by a train and then dying on Gwen only seven weeks after leaving her. (The book begins with the funeral, so none of this is a secret.)

Gwen has to deal with so many changes here - who she is, who Edgar actually was, why their life turned out the way it did. This makes it sound like an introspective book, but Gwen deals with these changes and her previous passivity by doing stuff. Picking up a much younger guy, David, the night of Edgar's funeral. Then getting rid of everything in her/their home, selling the home and hitting the road.

David's story, a slightly disturbed young man, also gets some background. He is quite strange inside but seemingly normal on the outside. Gwen and David's interaction has far reaching effects on both of them and most of the book looks at these repercussions.

This was a nice mix of story and character development, with some wry moments. I'm not sure what I think of either of Gwen or David, but their progression was interesting. It was a little convenient that Edgar the lawyer never got around to changing his will, so Gwen has no money issues.

I bought this book secondhand soon after reading Barfoot's Exit Lines, eight years ago. The cover at first glance always makes me think of a saxophone, but it is Edgar's fancy midlife car.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BOOK: 39 Years of Short Term Memory Loss by Tom Davis

39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Years of SNL from Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis  (9 h 17 min)
read by the author

Tom Davis was part of a comedy pair, Franken and Davis that started in the late 1960s. Davis and Franken (yes, that Franken, Senator Al Franken) attended the same high school in Minnesota and came of age in the hippie '70s and were present at the beginning of Saturday Night Live.

I've never really heard of Davis and don't remember him from SNL, although he was primarily a writer. Near the end of the rambling, pointless book (more on that later), he reads a recent bio of Al Franken where Davis is virtually unmentioned. Paraphrasing the article: Franken was part of a comedy duo, known as an actor from SNL, here's a picture with 'a friend', running for senate. Davis seems a little upset by his non-recognition. I thought it wasn't surprising considering Franken and Davis had a bitter break up (they seem to be friendly now), and much of their growing different sensibilities could probably be traced back to the point where Al go married, had a child, and stopped hanging out and doing drugs all the time. Surprise! Franken grew more famous after stopping doing drugs all. the. time.

I was actually expecting a point where Davis would describe his rock bottom and how he stopped doing drugs, especially after chronicalling the death of John Belushi and Chris Farley. But nope. More stories about his friendships with Jerry Garcia, and Timothy Leary. He was a major Dead Head fan of the Grateful Dead.

Davis includes the emails he wrote to Franken while writing this book as Franken provided details which I assume Davis had no clue about due to all the drugs he did. Franken wrote the introduction and Davis does a remarkable job reading in Franken's voice.  All this book really made me think about was how much I'd like to read an Al Franken book, especially after seeing some of his work during the Senate confirmation hearings.

The book is just a bunch of random stories about people he knew and comedy sketches throughout his life. The sketches were funny, mostly, and Davis is still pretty proud of some of his funnier skits. The SNL stuff was the most interesting, hearing some of the behind the scenes stuff of the early years with Lorne Michaels and Dan Ackroyd.

But I couldn't sense the greater overall point of the story. He likes drugs. He wrote comedy. He knows a lot of famous people. (He didn't seem a fan of Mike Myers, who didn't seem impressed with the drug use of Davis when they met. Point for Myers, who I have recently written about gushingly.) I listened to it all, but eventually played it at 1.75X the speed just to get done. If you want a comedian's memoir from a SNL actor, try Martin Short or Mike Myers.





Sunday, January 22, 2017

BOOK: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
read by the author, 4 h 40 min

A raw, non linear memoir, covering many topics but primarily non-traditional family and pregnancy. Nelson is married to the artist Harry Dodge,a gender fluid trans man, inherits a step-son, and surprisingly to herself, wants to get pregnant.

Interspersed between the personal, are references to queer theory which Nelson debates or comments on.

“A day or two after my love pronouncement, now feral with vulnerability, I sent you the passage from Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes in which Barthes describes how the subject who utters the phrase “I love you” is like “the Argonaut renewing his ship during its voyage without changing its name.” Just as the Argo’s parts may be replaced over time but the boat is still called the Argo, whenever the lover utters the phrase “I love you,” its meaning must be renewed by each use, as “the very task of love and of language is to give to one and the same phrase inflections which will be forever new.”

The writing is dense, full of ideas and I easily would go back five or ten minutes to re-listen to a passage and still miss parts of the narrative. This might have been a book that the print version would have been more beneficial to me. I had to take my time to absorb the language.

Much thinking required, but Nelson's thinking is so different from my life experience, that I liked the parts I got. She is not afraid to discuss anything, and much was deeply personal. 

This book is from the list 40 New Feminist Classics. 5/40 read

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BOOK: Canada by Mike Myers


Canada by Mike Myers, 304 pages

Thank you Mike Myers.

You have written a wonderful book, a love letter of sorts, to Canada. For its 150th birthday! 

I so enjoyed this book. There are probably a number of reasons for this:

1. Mike Myers is awesome and funny. He is also so quintessentially Canadian - talented, funny, appreciative, humble. This is really what his book is about, what makes Canada, and what made Mike Myers.

2. Mike and I are both of a certain age (50ish) so he hits all my cultural markers of growing up in the seventies/eighties. That's also what the book is about - the era of the 'making of a great nation' from 1967-1976, when Canada came of age as a country, from Expo '67 to the Montreal Olympics.

3. Mike is famous. The section about his making it big drops a lot of names, and I almost forgot how big and funny he was. I mean, Wayne's World? Classic comedy. He also dishes about how Wayne's World, while set in Illinois, is really very Canadian, and he purposefully included all these Canadian references. 

4. Did I say he dishes? Not true. Myers is too nice to dish. He only has wonderful things to say, and if he was less than impressed with someone, he does not name names. This comes down to his innate goodness and wanting to look at the good side of things, and be appreciative of his opportunities. He periodically thanks Canadians as he talks about them in the book.


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I posted some pictures on Facebook as I was reading the book, wanting to share my fun. This Fitness Award badge generated lots of comments and memories. In the seventies, a government department promoted fitness  Participaction commercials and the Canadian Fitness Award. All students across Canada competed in 5 or 6 challenges and got bronze, silver, gold or award of excellence badges. (I never got an award of excellence fitness badge - the bar hang got me everytime down to bronze.)

Mike shared his memories of the Fitness Award in the book. The book is filled with pictures and random memories of growing up in Canada. (25 cent bags of Ketchup chips)



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The first part of the book contains all the cultural notices, things that make Canada Canada. Pictured above, Stompin' Tom Connors, and the Canadian Tire, aka Crappy Tire, logo. True fact: every Canadian has a drawer stuffed with Canadian Tire money. 

I'd be interested to hear what a non-Canadian thinks of this book. I have to say again, I loved this book. It reminded me of a cross between Martin Short's autobiography, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, and Douglas Coupland's more visual Souvenir of Canada.  


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Myers covers a lot in the book - his childhood, getting into show business, getting famous. Also, Canada and how the nation grew and evolved, the differences between Canada and US. Some political stuff - he was a huge fan of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and then he ends with Justin Trudeau, which is such a stark contrast to the politics in the States right now. (Sorry, says this Canadian)



Image may contain: textThanks again, Mike.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: 2016 Releases I Meant to Read (But TOTALLY Plan To)


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is Ten Books from 2016 Which I Meant to Read (But TOTALLY Plan To). I am taking the titles from some of those 'Best of 2016' lists, and trying to focus a little more on nonfiction for this year.


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi (and it is read by Cassandra Campbell!)

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Time Travel: A History by James Glieck

March: A Trilogy by John Lewis

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong


So, have you read any of these? Plan to?