Archive for the ‘Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

The Hidden Life of Trees

What They Feel, How They Communicate

Discoveries from a Secret World

by Peter Wohlleben

HarperCollins, 2016. 7 hours, 30 minutes.
Review written September 25, 2020, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 General Nonfiction

I finally read this book by listening to it on an eaudiobook. I had read the Young Readers’ Edition, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, which includes the general ideas presented here, along with glorious full-color photographs.

On audiobook, the narrator’s pleasant voice and British accent makes for a nice listening experience, though I don’t absorb facts as well by listening as I do by seeing. Still, this was just as fascinating as the children’s version, with many more interesting details.

I learned more information about how the forest is connected through fungi in the soil. Trees can even feed other trees that are in distress through the fungi. I learned about how trees communicate through scent – by producing chemicals – and through the fungi. I learned that trees can learn and how “mother” trees train their children to grow slowly at first, and how that helps them to live longer lives. I learned how the forest is interconnected and it’s actually a disservice to trees to clear out old rotting stumps. I also learned that they have discovered stumps cut down centuries before that are still alive because their neighbors feed them. And many other fascinating details like that.

This did make me look at forests with new eyes. Trees are living things and although their ways of communicating and learning and adapting are completely different from ours, scientists are learning that they do these things. And Peter Wohlleben is particularly skilled at passing on that knowledge.

He also has some theories about how walking in the forest makes us feel good. It turns out that’s more true in a healthy forest. It made me want to run out and walk in a forest right away.

Now that I’ve started, I’m going to read more of his books.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Earth in Her Hands, by Jennifer Jewell

Monday, January 25th, 2021

The Earth in Her Hands

75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants

by Jennifer Jewell

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2020. 324 pages.
Review written September 22, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 General Nonfiction

This amazing and beautiful book features seventy-five plantswomen who work in a multiplicity of jobs, mostly jobs I didn’t even know existed before reading this book, and serve plants and the earth in some way.

The format is consistent for all the featured women. On their opening spread in this generously-sized book, one page is filled with a picture of them among their plants. There’s a quote from the subject next to the picture. The text of the feature begins with “Her Work,” telling what she does. Then either “Her Plant” or “Her Landscape” featuring a plant or landscape that’s special to her. The bulk of the feature is the next part, “Her Plant Journey,” which goes into the next spread, giving an outline of her life story and how she came to her current work and the things that excite her about what she does. The second spread has another, smaller picture. The features finish off with “Other Inspiring Women,” a list of women whose work has inspired the featured woman. And yes, some of those are featured, too.

The women are listed alphabetically rather than by type of work, but there’s such a wide variety of work, that approach probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Some jobs are a little more traditional – nursery owners and farmers, photographers, artists, and writers. There are many horticulturists, gardeners, botanists, and landscape architects. But then we’ve got the owner of a houseplant shop in New York City, seed savers, and collectors, floral designers, garden directors, educators, advocates, herbalists, a soil scientist, a plant pathologist, and a horticultural therapist. And that doesn’t express the many aspects of these jobs that I learned about in these pages, each woman bringing love and passion to what she does.

Also amazing are how these women are located all over the world. Yes, the majority live in the U.S. or the U.K., but there are also women featured from India, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

This is a beautiful book. The photos of the women on the large, glossy pages usually highlight flowers, or maybe some lovely landscape or setting. I read the book usually one feature per day (I confess I had this book out from the library while we were closed for the pandemic so I had extra time.), and it made me want to get out there and do something with plants – at the very least got me noticing plants more on my daily walks by my lake and taking more close-ups of flowers.

This is in the adult section of the library, but I think putting this book into the right teen’s hands might set someone on the path of working with the earth, because it opens your eyes to all the possibilities.

For me, I found that sitting and spending a couple minutes reading one of these features was guaranteed to put me in a peaceful mental state, like taking a deep breath.

timberpress.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Grace Saves All, by David Artman

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Grace Saves All

The Necessity of Christian Universalism

by David Artman

Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Oregon, 2020. 147 pages.
Review written January 5, 2021, from my own copy purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 in Christian Nonfiction

I am amassing quite a collection of books about why Christian Universalism is biblical and why it makes sense and why it paints a picture more worthy of God. This is another wonderful addition to that set.

One thing I liked about this one was that I read it in the year it was published, and the author has read almost all the same books I have read – they are even listed in the back as “Recommended Reading” and are cited in many different places. (And I got a few ideas for additional reading.) He even listed all the ones I’d read in the last year, so he’s as up-to-date as I am.

And each book takes its own approach. This book takes the approach of looking at Grace, and I found that lovely. Here’s how the Introduction begins:

Grace is amazing. About this all Christians agree. Yet nearly all forms of Christianity put significant limits on grace. Those forms of Christianity which proclaim that grace alone actually saves typically don’t believe God gives grace to everyone, while those forms of Christianity which proclaim God gives grace to everyone typically don’t believe grace alone actually saves. Is the Christian understanding of grace necessarily divided between these two grace-limiting options? Must grace either be that which saves alone but doesn’t go to all, or that which goes to all but doesn’t save alone? Or, is there another way? Can one be a Christian and understand grace to save alone and go to all? Can one be a Christian and believe salvation by grace alone is for everyone?

I will argue here that being Christian does not require one to limit either grace’s power or scope. It’s quite possible, I will contend, to be Christian and to believe grace is God’s way of finally saving everyone. Grace can be understood to be God’s remedy for all human sin, not just part of it. Grace can mean God perseveres with us until we’ve all seen the light and freely responded in faith. Grace can mean God is with us not just if we get things right, but until we get things right. How long it takes for us to get things right is not the primary issue for God. Whether it happens in this lifetime, or in the age to come, or in the ages to come after that, is not what really matters. The primary issue for God isn’t how hard it will be for us, or how long it will take us. The primary issue for God is our final return home. And, like the father of the prodigal son, God will be vigilant until we all make our way home from the far country.

Even though I will be arguing here that everyone will finally be saved by grace alone, what we do still matters very much. We each still have our part to play. And neither will I be downplaying the consequences of sin. We are granted terrifying freedom to bring tremendous misery upon ourselves and others. What we do matters greatly. But no matter what we do, God’s grace can be understood to include God’s commitment to be with us, even in the form of judgment and hell, until we eventually see the light. I will argue that God’s perfecting love is continually with all of us, through whatever hell may be necessary, until all of us are finally healed and home. What makes grace truly amazing is God never giving up and never failing – God being able to save even those for whom there is apparently no hope. I maintain that it’s possible to be a Christian and to have this understanding of grace.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know it’s possible to be a Christian and to believe grace is God’s way of ultimately saving everyone. They don’t know where to find biblical evidence for this understanding of grace. They don’t know this way of understanding grace was common in early Christianity. They wrongly assume they can only be Christian if they also believe God will not, or might not, save everyone. Through this book I hope to help correct these false impressions and assumptions.

As with all the other books I’ve reviewed on Universalism (see the list on the side of this review page), this author fills the book with biblical references supporting what he says. Universalism is biblical! He also spends a whole chapter talking about how the early church supported Universalism. Universalism is authentic Christianity!

The author calls this kind of belief about grace the Inclusive approach. At the start of the main text, he lays out a five-point biblical framework for this approach:

1. God is a loving parent to all.

2. God sincerely wants to save all.

3. God, in Christ, covers the sin of all.

4. God is sovereign over all.

5. God will be all in all.

This book sums up Christian Universalism simply and clearly in a way that’s easy to understand. Plenty of biblical support is cited, and the author finishes up with his own story of how he came to this view, so it’s got a personal touch as well.

I liked reading this book to have one more clear argument in favor of Christian Universalism. But above all, I was happy to read it because it glories in the amazing inescapable grace of God that indeed saves all. Praise God!

wipfandstock.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Jesus Undefeated, by Keith Giles

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

Jesus Undefeated

Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment

by Keith Giles

Quoir, Orange, California, 2019. 193 pages.
Review written September 30, 2020, from my own copy, purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Christian Nonfiction

I’ve been a Universalist since 1998. I believe that God is going to save everyone. I do believe there is a hell, but that it doesn’t last forever, and is for correction. Just as terrible experiences in this life sometimes are what it takes to set us right. At the time, I came to that view from reading George MacDonald and the New Testament, but at first I didn’t know of any living Christian who agreed with me, which was a lonely feeling.

But over the years, I’ve found more and more writers who agree with me, including many alive today! I’ve studied the Scriptures and feel more and more confident that this is the most consistent way to interpret the New Testament, and the most in line with the meaning of the original language. I even learned that this is what the early church of native Greek-speaking people believed, and that it wasn’t until Augustine, who didn’t speak Greek, that the majority view changed and eternal punishment was popularized.

So I am now firm in my beliefs about this, but I still enjoy reading new books about universalism as they are published, because they simply make me happy. This is truly Good News! God the Father truly loves everyone, and reading about that makes me happy.

Each book also brings something new to the discussion. People interested in learning more about universalism can start with any of the books I list on the side of this review. This one would make a great starting place, presenting the alternatives and why universal reconciliation fits with Scripture. I like the way he also quotes many of the church fathers to make his case.

There are basically three views of hell you can get from the New Testament – Eternal Suffering, Annihilation (Conditional Immortality), and Universal Reconciliation (Patristic Universalism).

But what if all three views were “Biblical”? What if all three views based their doctrine on the “clear teachings of Scripture”? What if they were only affirming certain verses in the Bible that conformed to their view and had developed elaborate explanations for why those other verses didn’t teach what they appear to teach?

Well, I’m here to tell you, I think that all of those statements above are essentially true. Because, after looking at all three views, I can tell you that all three are certainly Biblical, (meaning they base their teaching on the Bible), and all three views assume to take a “clear teaching” approach when it comes to the verses that support their view (while arguing that opposing verses require more discernment to understand).

Obviously, either one of them is the correct view, or they are all wrong. But, they cannot all three be right. Hopefully we can all agree on these points.

So, I will fully admit that – whatever view you embrace – you must make a decision to accept a certain set of verses as authoritative and to dismiss another set. Neither of these three Christian views of Hell are iron-clad. Someone can always say, “But what about this verse?” and you will either have to explain why that verse isn’t saying what it appears to say or admit that you don’t know what it means, while you still hold tightly to the view you’ve decided to embrace.

To be fair, the Christian church took over 500 years to even attempt to divide over this teaching.

That’s from Chapter 2 of this book, “Always Three Views.” Keith Giles goes on to show us the main verses supporting each of the three views, but then why he thinks the strongest case is made for universal reconciliation.

I think my favorite chapter is “The Fruit of Universalism,” because it reflects the joy that’s come into my life since I adopted this view. Here’s a bit from that chapter:

The more I’ve studied the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the more I’ve started to notice something about those who embrace the view: they tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Maybe it’s because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God, and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “saved” or “lost,” and grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “non-Christian” category, you may start to see people as simply people.

Not only that, but you also begin to see them as God sees them. You slowly recognize that everyone you meet – regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition – is someone who is dearly loved by God. You also start to understand that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you realize that we all have the same Heavenly Father.

This really starts to change the way you treat other people. It starts to bear good fruit in your life. It even makes it easier to love others as Christ has loved you, without conditions or strings attached.

Eventually, you begin to recognize that God loves everyone much more than you could ever love them; even your own family members who may be far from faith in Christ at the moment. You start to realize that God has a grand design in motion to draw everyone to Himself, eventually. We get to take part in that, if we can learn to abide in Christ and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in this process. But, we can also enjoy a newfound sense of ease with this process. Because now we’re not fighting the clock or worried about closing the sale. Instead, we’re trusting in God’s ultimate victory which is inevitable and unstoppable.

I hope that some find this excerpt intriguing. When I first realize what George MacDonald was saying, I didn’t think I could believe universalism because the Bible didn’t teach it – but MacDonald clearly thought it did, and he had studied the original Greek text. So I do appreciate that Keith Giles shows the reader that there is strong evidence that indeed one day in Christ all will be made alive.

JesusUndefeated.com
KeithGiles.com
quoir.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Keep Moving, by Maggie Smith

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Keep Moving

Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change

by Maggie Smith

One Signal Publishers (Atria), 2020. 214 pages.
Review written November 6, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 General Nonfiction

This is a book I wish I’d had when my husband left me and my life was falling apart. But ten years after the divorce was final, these words still encourage me greatly. I expect I will buy copies of this book to give as gifts in case I ever have friends in tough situations where their expectations for what their life was going to be crumble. Even in the present, reading these words keep me moving. I’ll be posting lots of quotes from it on my Sonderquotes blog.

The bulk of this book is inspirational encouragement on each page, finished by the words – on every page – “KEEP MOVING.”

Here’s an example:

Focus on who you are and what you’ve built, not who you’d planned on being and what you’d expected to have. Trust that the present moment – however difficult, however different from what you’d imagined – has something to teach you.

KEEP MOVING.

Here’s another:

You are not betraying your grief by feeling joy. You are not being graded, and you do not receive extra credit for being miserable 100% of the time. Find pockets of relief, even happiness, when and where you can.

KEEP MOVING.

There are three main sections: Revision, Resilience, and Transformation. Within each section, in between these inspirational sayings made to be quoted, we’ve got pages here and there of smaller text, giving us the context of when the author had to deal with loss, in more than one way.

She began this book by writing daily goals for herself as her life was falling apart — and she kept going.

After writing this review, I decided to buy my own copy so I can come back to it again and again. Every day I’m reading a page to encourage me and keep me moving.

SimonandSchuster.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Know My Name, by Chanel Miller

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Know My Name

by Chanel Miller

Viking, 2019. 357 pages.
Review written October 3, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 General Nonfiction

Know My Name is a memoir by the victim in the famous case where she was raped while she was unconscious on Stanford campus by a member of the swim team. He was found guilty and then given a light slap-on-the-wrist sentence. Chanel wrote a letter as Emily Doe to her rapist that was published on BuzzFeed and went viral and touched hearts and lives across the world. (I love the little detail that Joe Biden wrote to her after reading it and said, “I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman – full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.”)

Chanel Miller is an incredibly skilled writer. She takes the story of her own rape and explains its terrible impact on her life. She doesn’t excuse it. She doesn’t take it lightly ever. She explains that it impacted her life every single day since the event and will continue to impact it. She points out the many, many failures in the system that made things worse for her. She explains how wonderful it was that her life was saved by two Swedes who happened to bicycle past and took the time to save her. But she gets all her readers wondering what would have happened if they hadn’t come along. You’d think with such witnesses, it would be an easy conviction, but it wasn’t. Not easy in any sense at all.

And yet she leaves us with hope. Her letter, which is included at the end of the book, touched lives across the world. Her book cover design represents the Japanese art of kintsugi, “in which pieces of broken pottery are mended with powdered gold and lacquer, rather than treating the breaks as blemishes to conceal. The technique shows us that although an object cannot be returned to its original state, fragments can be made whole again.”

I checked out this book after I’d already learned I was going to be a panelist for Young Adult Fiction and Speculative Fiction for the Cybils Awards, but I thought I’d read it slowly, a chapter at a time and just draw it out. Instead, I ended up binge-reading it to finish it the night before Cybils nominations opened. Even though I knew what happened, the book ended up being impossible to put down. She makes you understand how it felt to be violated in this way and how difficult it was to put her life back together and go on.

I’m going to finish this review by quoting her final paragraphs. I’m not giving anything away. Most of you will have heard of her story. But I’m quoting her to show how powerfully she brings hope to victims everywhere, and to people everywhere who ever wonder what their own lives are worth.

I began this story alone as a half-naked body. I remembered nothing. There was so much I did not know. I was forced to fight, in a legal system I did not understand, the bald judge in the black robe, the defense attorney with narrow glasses. Brock with his lowered chin, his unsmiling father, the appellate attorney. The obstacles became harder, I was up against men more educated, more powerful than me, the game rougher, more graphic, serious. I read comments that laughed at my pain. I remember feeling helpless, terrified, humiliated, I cried like I’ve never cried before. But I remember the attorney’s still shoulders as guilty was read. I know Brock slept ninety days in a stiff cot in a jail cell. The judge will never step foot in a courtroom again. The appellate attorney’s claims were shut down. One by one, they became powerless, fell away, and when the dust settled, I looked around to see who was left.

Only Emily Doe. I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote. Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm. Hold up your head when the tears come, when you are mocked, insulted, questioned, threatened, when they tell you you are nothing, when your body is reduced to openings. The journey will be longer than you imagined, trauma will find you again and again. Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom. Fight because it is your life. Not anyone else’s. I did it, I am here. Looking back, all the ones who doubted or hurt or nearly conquered me faded away, and I am the only one standing. So now, the time has come. I dust myself off, and go on.

I recommend many books. Let me urge you to read this one. It will leave you with more compassion than you had before, and with more power, and more hope.

chanel-miller.com
penguinrandomhouse.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The New Testament: A Translation by David Bentley Hart

Sunday, October 18th, 2020

The New Testament

A Translation

by David Bentley Hart

Yale University Press, 2017. 577 pages.
Review written October 18, 2020, from my own copy.
Starred Review

It seems so presumptuous to write a review of The New Testament! Rest assured this is a review of this particular translation in order to recommend it to other students of the Bible.

I was interested in this translation because of reading the author’s book on universalism, That All Shall Be Saved. The translation came first, and I’ve found that many proponents of universalism have an in-depth knowledge of biblical Greek. This author is no exception.

He does claim to have approached the text without theological bias, admitting that there will always be some, but trying to be faithful to what is written. Here’s a segment from his Introduction:

I should note that this is not a literary translation of the New Testament, much less a rendering for liturgical use. If it conforms in any degree to any current school of translation theory, it is certainly that of “formal,” rather than “dynamic,” equivalence – though, in fact, I believe that no translator should entrust his or her choices to the authority of any “theory” whatsoever. Again and again, I have elected to produce an almost pitilessly literal translation; many of my departures from received practices are simply my efforts to make the original text as visible as possible through the palimpsest of its translation…. Where the Greek of the original is maladroit, broken, or impenetrable (as it is with some consistency in Paul’s letters), so is the English of my translation; where an author has written bad Greek (such as one finds throughout the book of Revelation), I have written bad English.

I’m writing this review after finishing the entire book – for many months, I’ve read one two-page spread per day as part of my devotions. I may start up again on this, but I will also keep the book on hand for times when I’m curious about how this author renders the original Greek, to get another perspective on a biblical passage and, I think, a clearer idea of how it was written in the original text.

I have to say that in all my reading of this book, there was one verse that made me cry out in delight at his clear rendering. It was Philippians 2:10-11 –

So that at the name of Jesus every knee – of beings heavenly and earthly and subterranean – should bend, And every tongue gladly confess that Jesus the Anointed is Lord, for the glory of God the Father.

The insertion of the word “gladly” means you can’t pretend this verse means that one day God’s going to force knees to bow.

But I also enjoyed the many footnotes (Really!) with explanations for why he translated things a certain way. And I especially enjoyed the section at the back titled, “Concluding Scientific Postscript.” It includes some particular notes on the Prologue of John’s Gospel and some details in the Greek that can’t really be expressed in English. Then he includes notes on translating nineteen specific words, beginning with aionios, “which in most traditional translations is rendered as ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting,’ except in the many instances where such a reading would be nonsensical.” He goes on for several pages about why this is not an appropriate translation, referencing extra-biblical Greek sources as well as the Greek-speaking church fathers, besides giving other reasons for his choices. Of course this is a crucial point for universalists, and he makes a strong case. The second word he looks at in depth is gehenna, and he explains why “hell” is not an appropriate translation for that. The rest of the words do not apply so particularly to universalism, but it’s all tremendously interesting and enlightening, and gives insight into what the Bible says.

David Bentley Hart finishes up this volume with these words:

I do hope this translation will, for many readers, help to cast new light on his or her understanding of the origins and contents of Christian faith. And I repeat my assertion, which may seem slightly incredible, that I have tried not to advance my theological or ideological agenda, but rather to capture in English as much of the suggestiveness and uncertainty and mystery of the original Greek as possible, precisely in order to prevent any prior set of commitments from determining for the reader in advance what it is that the text must say (even when it does not).

Why review this book? To let other students of Scripture know about this amazing resource. I hope some of you will seek out a copy to aid in your own study.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Women of the 116th Congress: Portraits of Power

Friday, September 11th, 2020

The Women of the 116th Congress

Portraits of Power

Foreword by Roxane Gay

Portraits by Elizabeth D. Herman and Celeste Sloman

Abrams Image, 2019. 208 pages.
Review written September 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely book that fills my heart with pride in our nation. It consists of 130 portraits of the 131 women (one was not available) serving in the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States of America after the 2018 elections.

The portraits are presented alphabetically by the state each woman represents. A list of firsts that woman has achieved are presented, many of them being the first woman from their state or their district in the House or the Senate, or the first woman of their ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation. And there’s a paragraph quote from each woman talking about what it means to them to serve in the United States Congress.

Throughout the book, there are short interruptions with spreads about historic women who paved the way for these ones, such as Jeannette Pickering Rankin: “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.” Or Shirley Anita Chisholm: “In the end anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.”

I never thought of it as an important cause to elect more women to Congress – until I looked through this book and it made me so happy and proud. I love to think that the day will come when we can look back on the 116th Congress and think how relatively few women they included back then.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds, by Ian Wright

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds

100 New Ways to See the World

by Ian Wright
illustrated by Infographic.ly

The Experiment, 2019. Originally published in the UK. 192 pages.
Review written July 29, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 General Nonfiction

This book is a collection of maps from the author’s website, brilliantmaps.com. As the subtitle suggests, these maps are able to help you see the world in a different way. Most of the maps shine a spotlight on one aspect of the world and make you see that aspect differently.

The 100 maps are broken into 9 chapters: People and Populations; Politics, Power, and Religion; Culture and Customs; Friends and Enemies; Geography; History; National Identity; Crime and Punishment; and Nature.

Some of the maps you might consider silly – for example, longest place names, countries whose flags contain red or blue, and world plug and socket maps – others more serious, such as Homicide rates: Europe vs. the U. S.

Some maps I enjoyed included Probability of a White Christmas map (except that the probability is low where I live); European countries that have invaded Poland; How the North American population fits into Europe; and Countries without McDonalds.

This book is well titled. Yes, these maps are brilliant. Yes, you are sure to enjoy them if you have a curious mind.

brilliantmaps.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/brilliant_maps_for_curious_minds.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, by Jason B. Rosenthal

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me

by Jason B. Rosenthal
read by the author

HarperAudio, 2020. 7 hours on 6 CDs.
Review written August 11, 2020, from a library audiobook
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 General Nonfiction

On March 3, 2017, beloved children’s author Amy Krouse Rosenthal (okay, she wrote things for adults, too, and even made films, but being a children’s author is what I loved her for) had a column published in the New York Times, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It told about her impending death from ovarian cancer, which indeed happened ten days later, but also about what a wonderful man her husband was, how beautiful their life together, and hoping that he would start a new love story after her death, because she wanted him to have a happy life.

This book is Jason’s follow-up. It tells about his life with Amy and their joyful partnership, about the two years he cared for her after her cancer diagnosis, and about dealing with grief. Amy gave him the gift of a platform to talk about end of life, the grieving process, and meeting life after loss with resilience.

As a divorced woman, I’ve dealt with loss. I’m glad that Jason acknowledges that he was lucky to have the loving relationship he had. And Amy blessed it with her last loving act of writing that column. Divorced people (especially those blind-sided by a spouse who leaves before they realize anything’s wrong) don’t get that benediction, but we still have to deal with the absence of someone we love. I appreciated that Jason doesn’t shy away from telling about the good times as if to avoid pain. And his insights are helpful for anyone dealing with loss, even if on the surface, your loss seems quite different from the too-early death of a beloved spouse.

Another thing I have in common with Jason is a succession of losses. Both my parents died, two months apart, last Fall. In the two years since Amy’s death, both Jason’s father and Amy’s father died, as well as the dog that was their family’s companion for many years. Loss piled on top of loss has its own difficult impact. Jason expresses so well the process of dealing with loss upon loss while remembering the love and joy. He doesn’t pretend to have it all together. He talks about times of weeping. And he is again and again thankful to Amy for urging him to fill those empty pages with a new love story.

Listening to Jason’s own voice makes it all the more personal. Listening to this audiobook feels like a brother or a close friend sharing their life and offering encouragement. I understand why hundreds of people have written to him. Amy’s column alone makes me wish it just so happened that I was right for him. (For starters, I don’t live in Chicago.) I have no doubt he’s going to again be a wonderful husband to some lucky woman. (And he has started dating someone. I’m a little envious that he was able to find someone “organically” without using online dating, but hey, everyone’s life is different.)

The part about his life together with Amy was full of joy. I drooled at the description of the home they built – with a wall covered with bookshelves from the basement to the third floor. And I love that they set goals for their relationship while on their honeymoon. They traveled the world together. They made room for quality time with their children and with each other. And they were each other’s biggest fans.

But he’s also got encouraging and uplifting things to say about his life now and about dealing with loss and having resiliency. This is not a sad book, even though it’s centered around a very sad event. It’s the story of a joyful and loving partnership and about someone learning to continue to live a joyful and meaningful life after that partnership ended far too soon.

Like I said, it feels like the author is talking to you personally. I will resist the urge to add to the pile of letters he’s received. Let me just say it now: Jason, thank you for this book. Thank you for telling Amy’s story and your story. Thank you for giving others a window into navigating the journey of loss and new beginnings.

jasonbrosenthal.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/my_wife_said_you_may_want_to_marry_me.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?