Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: February 24, 2019


Hello from sunny, warm Sanibel. Although February is nearly over, this is my first update post all month. The weeks are flying! We enjoyed our oldest daughter's visit at the beginning of the month, spent a couple of days with friends vacationing in the area, and had a wonderful time with my sister and brother-in-law this past week. Now we're alone for ten days, but eagerly awaiting Twin A's arrival.

Blogging may have fallen by the wayside, but I did manage to read a few books.


Recent reading//



by Jane Ziegelman
 After Lisa mentioned this book on twitter, I borrowed both the ebook and audiobook from the library. They both happened to be available and I was between books... perfect timing. In addition, my book club read 97 Orchard   a few years ago, so I was familiar with Ziegelman's style. She presents a lot of interesting information here, but I became bored around the 40% mark and ended up skimming the second half. Unless you have a particular fascination with depression-era food, I'd say it's safe to skip this one.
My rating:




The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

This is the "it" book I never got around to reading last year. My daughter brought her hardcover copy when she visited and I used an audible credit to purchase the audio version narrated by Michael Crouch. The read/listen combination drew me in immediately.

The Great Believers  is what I'd consider an issue novel. It's about the AIDS crisis in 1980s Chicago and it triggered memories, both happy and sad, of lost friends. It also prompted me to reflect on my time as a clinical pharmacist at a teaching hospital, where my "territory" included the AIDS ward. Therapies mentioned in the book, standard in the mid-80s, seem positively prehistoric by today's standards. Needless to say, the book brought tears to my eyes more than once.

Makkai uses a dual timeline to tell the story, alternating between the 1980s and today. Obviously, many characters are absent from the present day narrative. The contemporary story, mostly set in Paris, is far weaker. While I understand the author's choice, I wonder if it might have been better told chronologically.
My rating:






I love books about books, so Diane's recent 5-star rating got my attention. Happily, the audiobook was available for instant download from my library via hoopla. It's just under four hours, and I raced through it in just two days... loved every minute! This was the first time I've read Ann Hood, but I'd like to try Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food soon. And maybe her fiction, too. Thanks, Diane :)
My rating:






Another recommendation from Diane, this book is a series of comical short stories and the 88-year-old "elderly lady" just happens to be a serial killer. I borrowed the tiny hardcover book from the library and laughed out loud several times as I read.  Even the table of contents made me smile:
An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems
An Elderly Lady and Her Travels
An Elderly Lady Seeks Peace at Christmastime
The Antique Dealer's Death
An Elderly Lady is Faced With a Dilemma
This book was just plain fun. I plan to read more from this author, too. Thanks, Diane!
My rating:




Set aside for now//

Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum

My Back to the Classics Challenge isn't off to the best start. This was to be my "classic in translation" and, while it was an okay read, I was never anxious to pick it up... especially after setting it aside for a few days.

A week or two ago I read (wish I could remember where - blog? twitter?) a comment stating that the reader gave a book only 25 to 50 pages. If it hadn't sufficiently drawn her in, or if she could put it down and never wonder about the characters or subject matter, then it was time to move on. There are so many other potential great reads out there. I must have seen that comment at precisely the right time. I decided to move on, too.



Current reading//

by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
narrated by Linda Lavin

My RBG reading, or in this case listening, continues. This audiobook features archival original recordings of Justice Ginsburg’s speeches and bench announcements, as well as a speech delivered by her husband Marty. Audio is definitely the way to go here!





Some Prefer Nettles by JunichirĊ Tanizaki 
I'm reading this for the Back to the Classics Challenge... classic in translation, take two! So far, so good.



This post is far too long, so I'll forgo "In the kitchen" and save photos of my new bike for next time. I won't let three or four weeks elapse either. Thank you for reading all the way to the end!

How's your winter going? What's the best book you've read this month?


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart


Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life
by Jane Sherron De Hart
752 pages
Knopf, 2018
source: Christmas gift from my daughter

Random House Audio, 2018
Narrated by Suzanne Toren
24 hours and 3 minutes
source: audible credit


PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY:
The first full life--private, public, legal, philosophical--of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, one of the most profound and profoundly transformative legal minds of our time; a book fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and her associates.


MY THOUGHTS:

This review is long overdue. My jumbled thoughts have languished in a draft folder for weeks. They're not getting any more profound, so it's time to hit the publish button.

The first thing you need to know:
This book is NOT for readers with a casual interest in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I've read other RBG biographies and De Hart's is, by far, the most comprehensive and complex. This is a book for the reader who wants more... more about RBG's childhood, early career and personal life, more about her causes, specific cases, and how they represent incremental progress in the fight for equal treatment under the law, and, finally, more about the changing dynamics of the Supreme Court during her tenure.

Also worth noting: 
This book was not written solely for lawyers or legal scholars. I have no legal education or training, yet De Hart is able to clearly explain issues, opposing arguments, majority opinions, dissents, and, most importantly, their significance in language I could understand.    

The audio version is a winner:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life  managed, for the most part, to hold my interest for 550 pages. I approached it as a read/listen combination and will admit that the audio version pulled me through a few drier sections. Suzanne Torren's narration is excellent. Her crisp, authoritative voice is perfectly suited to the book.

But I do have a couple of criticisms:
First --> Does Ruth Bader Ginsburg have any faults? If, indeed, she does, none are mentioned in this book.

Second--> The book veers down an increasingly partisan path in the last several chapters. Realistically, I'm not sure this can be avoided once Trump becomes a part of the narrative.

My favorite "day in the life" anecdote:
Early in her career, RBG argued a case before the Supreme Court in the morning, returned to NYC in time to deliver an afternoon lecture at Columbia, and still made it home in time to have dinner with her husband and children. Rest assured, she did not cook  the dinner... but this still makes me feel wholly inadequate!

My next step:
I plan to get a copy of  My Own Words  by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "a witty, engaging, serious, and playful collection of writings and speeches from the woman who has had a powerful and enduring influence on law, women’s rights, and popular culture."

The bottom line:
If you're familiar with the RBG basics and want to dig deeper, this is the book for you! For a more accessible starting point, I recommend Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg  by Irin Carmon.

Ultimately, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life  has left me with an even greater respect for this brilliant, driven, and seemingly indefatigable woman.

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