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Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

After reading this book, “The Healing of America”  by T.R. Reid, I wanted to send a copy to every member of Congress.  This book is full of hope for what could be in this country.    Unfortunately, that may have to be very far into the future.  This book is full of possibilities about different ways of dealing with health care on a regional or national level.  Unlike what many members of our Congress might have us believe, there isn’t just one, “socialized” way of providing every citizen of a nation with a decent measure of health care.  And, according to this book, letting the government play some role in health care, could almost always afford citizens with more choice than our privatized system currently does.  We are the only industrialized nation in the world that still has a for profit health insurance system, and therein lies some of the problem.  We spend more per capita on health care than any other nation and still have more people die of curable diseases.  That is shameful, in my opinion.  What is more shameful, is the arrogance of our legislators and their constituents, who believe we, as Americans, are too smart to learn from another nations’s way of doing things.    We are one of the youngest nations in the industrialized world.  We should still be open to new ideas.  The bottom line, as it is presented in this book, is this.  Are we willing to make the moral choice to find a way to cover every American, or not?

I found this book very enlightening, and it’s author very passionate and knowledgeable about his subject.  I highly, strongly recommend this book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:     Anna

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The man who loved books too much is not the most likable guy.  In fact, he can be very annoying and infuriating at times.  But, Allison Hoover Bartlett sure knows how to tell a good story.  She makes this story so fun to read, even when the title character is being infuriating.  There is, actually, a whole host of characters in this true account of a man who desired rare and valuable books, but could not, and would never be able to, afford them.  Being somewhat psychotic, however, he believed that because he desired them so greatly, he deserved them.  So he resorted to credit card fraud in order to obtain them.  And somehow, in his head, he could not admit that this was stealing.  Even though he was repeatedly incarcerated for fraud, he continued to perpetrate it without remorse.  In fact, he somehow believed that he was the victim of greedy rare book dealers who simply priced books too high for him to afford.  The dealers, many of whom helped the author with her story by granting many interviews over many months, were the true victims of this story.  But they were also the heroes, as they banded together to aid in the apprehension of the con man who manipulated them with his charm and deceit. This book is a fascinating look into the world of rare books, their dealers, and the mind of a man who needed to acquire them by any means.  It is a quick read, an interesting story, and  alot of fun.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:   Anna

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Although Mr Latimer and I may not always agree, ideologically, I can totally admire his views and opinions, as they were expressed in this book,  “Speech-less, Tales of a White House Survivor”.  He is an idealist, like myself.  Therefore, I found this book refreshing.  Matt Latimer pined from the time he was a teenager for the day when he would be a presidential speechwriter.  After finishing law school, he set out for Washington and held a variety of jobs working for increasingly powerful politicians.  With each job, Matt came with idealism and expectations, and repeatedly received what I like to call a proverbial slap in the face.  Although he retained respect for many of his former employers, the system in which he and they operated was not at all what he had thought.  Nevertheless, he persevered, and continued to work toward his goal of a White House job.  Finally, his dream job presented itself.  Writing for George W. Bush.  At the White House.   With all of the excitement of youth, and none of the jadedness he could have had by this time, Matt set out to change the world through his job of helping to craft speeches for his Republican president.  Unfortunately, although he remained loyal to Bush, his faith in the Republican party and the conservative movement was greatly shaken over the years of his service.  By the end of his tenure, he wasn’t even sure he considered himself to be a Republican anymore.   Although I can greatly sympathize with the disillusionment that Matt faces by the end of his career in politics, I am refreshed to find someone willing to say it like it is.  There are so many books that come from Washington insiders, and as someone who is more than a little jaded myself, I find it difficult to decide whom to believe.  I tend to believe this author, not because I enjoyed his depiction of his own party, but because someone willing to recount what he did about his own party and the people in it, and still remain idealistic and hopeful and fair, seems more credible to me.  Of course, as an idealist myself, I tend to be naive about these things.  So, what do I know?  I found this book to be easy and enjoyable, and the author very likable.

I give this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:    Anna

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This book, which details the writing of a blog about the experiment of attempting to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, is one that I am glad that I read, but I am also glad that I am done.  The author of both the book and the blog, Julie Powell, is a directionless secretary working in New York and living with her husband, Eric.  Her life, as she describes it, is hopeless and depressing.  There is a shrewishness about Julie that makes me wonder what her husband sees in her.   I suppose there is a very real possibility that Eric is also a major jerk, and Julie just didn’t write about that.  She does seem somewhat self-involved.  I did enjoy the descriptions of Julie trying to cook her way through this tome of a cookbook, but the whiny filler in between, I could have done without.  I have always suspected that professional chefs make really difficult things look easier than they are, so Julie’s struggles and subsequent successes and failures were very reassuring to me.  And I did feel sympathy for our heroine when she discovered, right at the end of her year-long odyssey, that her hero, Julia Child, had no appreciation whatsoever, for her year of hard work.  But, I must admit, that was one of the very few instances when I felt the likability of Julie Powell.  When all is said and done, if I had to choose between Julie and Julia as someone to spend time with, I would choose Julia, hands down.  Sorry, Julie.

I give this book 2.5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:    Anna

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This book, “My Life in France”, has as its heroine a woman who embodies the essence of “joie de vivre”.  The story begins with the marriage of Julia McWilliams to Paul Child and there subsequent move to Paris for Paul’s job with the American government.  Although already in her 30’s and a seasoned traveler after working in Ceylon for the US government, her arrival in France is portrayed as though through the eyes of a complete innocent.  Each detail of her first meal in France is outlined lovingly and delectably, as though she had just finished eating it.  There is a glorious use of description in this book, most especially when describing the food and the cooking techniques.  France was a spiritual home to Julia, as she herself states, although she remained firmly tuned in to her American audiences throughout the cooking career she began to carve out for herself while in France.  What shines through so clearly in this book is Julia and Paul’s love of France, the French people, French food, and the French way of life.  It also needs to be said that the love and support that Julia and Paul had and provided one another is moving and inspiring.  These two were made for each other!

The process of compiling the recipes for her tome, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, was fascinating, if exhausting.  Collaborating with two dear French friends, the work was tedious, time-consuming and seemed to be totally fulfilling, at least for Julia.  The peek inside the process of actually writing a cookbook is very interesting, but it surely makes the rest of realize that this is not something that just anyone can do.  No matter how much one might enjoy cooking.  Julia Child, it seems, needed to cook in the same way that she needed to eat.  She did both voraciously, passionately and joyfully.

This is a very friendly and easy book to read and great fun for anyone who remembers seeing episodes of The French Chef, or any of the other appearances Julia made on TV throughout her prolific career.

I give this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:         Anna

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I am sure that for some, this book, “The First Tycoon”, would be a fascinating read.  For anyone who has an interest in business, or economics, or the history of these subjects, this is a highly recommended book.  However, since business and corporations are not really my thing, this was a book that I found a bit difficult to wade through.  This is by no means a commentary on the author of this book, or his abilities.  It is just an observation and a warning, for those who might think that this book is more about Cornelius Vanderbilt, the man.  That is the mistake that I made when I decided to read “The First Tycoon”.  Stiles does a fabulous job of detailing the beginnings of corporate America and the machinations that took place among America’s early businessmen.  The focus, though, is very much on Vanderbilt, the businessman.  While the Vanderbilt family is, inevitably, a part of the story, they are but a small part, and really only discussed in how they were affected by the patriarch of the family and his overpowering personality.  Very nearly each person mentioned is discussed in relation to Vanderbilt as businessman.  I did find interesting the evolution of corporations and how Americans slowly accepted the changes in the nation’s economy.  This, however, was the main focus of the book, and there is just a bit too much detailed information about Vanderbilt’s businesses for my taste.  This is not a condemnation of the book, which is very well-written, but of my ability to perceive the subject matter before I began reading.  The fault of the fact that I did not thoroughly enjoy this book lies entirely with me.

That being said, I personlly have to give this book 3 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:     Anna

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This book, “No Ordinary Time”, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, is a pretty comprehensive account of life in the White House just before and during WWII.  Although it is a lengthy book, with a wide cast of characters, Goodwin, in my opinion, never fails to make the story entertaining, and the characters come alive.  Her research is exhaustive, but because of that, the personalities and the stories are arrayed in such detail, that is almost as if the reader is a fly on the wall.   Both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, are treated objectively, with good points and bad pointed out.  Their triumphs and joys, as well as their sorrows and shortcomings are portrayed so well that the reader feels they can actually know these people.  They are very real and human.  Goodwin never fails to disappoint for me as a reader.  She is a scholar, to be sure, but writes for the lay-reader who enjoys history.  I am definitely not a scholar, and I feel as though I come away from reading her books with as comprehensive a feel for the subject matter as is possible to get in one book.  I find her books approachable, easy to read, and extremely informative.  She makes history fun!   I highly recommend “No Ordinary Time” if you are a fan of history, the Roosevelts, or Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I give this book 5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by:    Anna

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