Friday, February 28, 2014

Uniquely Portable Magic

I got so many nice responses to the bibliography I put up for reference after a keynote I gave in Chicago, lots of sentiments such as "I love knowing what other people are reading!" so I thought I'd extend the thread. Now that I can read again (no concussion symptoms for a MONTH!) I'm going in big. Here's what I'm reading this week, starting at the top:

1. Dan Ariely's The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves. (Harper) I found out about this book via James Lang, who wrote another book on honesty, Cheating Lessons. I wrote about that book for the Atlantic, and figured I'd go back to the source, as Lang is a big fan of Ariely. So far, it's fascinating. I'm about halfway through, and I particularly liked chapter two, "Fun With the Fudge Factor." Great book.

2. Amy Sutherland's Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers. (Penguin) I'm a voracious reader of nonfiction, particularly life experience/adventure nonfiction, so I was shocked when I heard about this book at Dan Jones' reading for Love Illuminated at the Brookline Booksmith and realized I had not read it. I purchased it that night and have been devouring it. Amy heads off to Moorpark Exotic Animal Training and Management Program and, of course, a book results. She wrote about her experiences using some of these training techniques on her husband for Dan's New York Times column, Modern Love, and got a book deal out of that, which resulted in What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People From Animals and Their Trainers. Both books are a blast. I'm loving them. And, of course, now I want to enroll in Moorpark.

3. Melissa Atkins Wardy's Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. (Chicago Review Press) I have to admit to a reading bias here: I tend to read books about boys more often than I read about girls. I have two boys, my house is saturated with testosterone, and I've never been a very girly girl myself. That said, I really enjoyed Melissa's book. It gives practical advice about how to avoid inadvertently stereotyping or sexualizing girls. Melissa has some great ideas, and a perspective I don't think about much at home, but certainly have to pay attention to in the classroom (and there's a specific section for teachers). I've even shared some of her thoughts with my older son, in an attempt to get him attuned to the issues girls face, and how men should think about girls and women. I interviewed Melissa for my Atlantic piece on baby talk and upspeak, and her insights were invaluable. If you have a girl, or are a teacher, you should absolutely read this book.

4. Nathalia Holt's Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science. (Dutton) Nathalia and I share an agent (the fabulous Laurie Abkemeier, but I found out about this book through my husband, Tim Lahey, an HIV physician and writer. A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, I was an HIV researcher with Duke University and the CDC, so this is the one medical topic I can actually wrap my brain around and sink in with some comfort. Not that I needed the background knowledge; Nathalia does a fantastic job of clarifying and summarizing some really challenging material for a lay audience. I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of science writing (me! me!) and want to understand where things stand regarding HIV medicine and our pursuit of a cure.

NB: The title comes from Stephen King's On Writing, one of my very books in the world. In it, he writes, "Books are a uniquely portable magic."

1 comment:

  1. I posted this yesterday: "It hurts my heart that another little girl at my daughter's school felt it necessary to make my daughter feel bad for being unfeminine, because my daughter likes "boy" things like dinosaurs and super heroes. Really? We have to start putting each other down in kindergarten for not meeting cultural expectations of femininity?" So fortuitous to read about Redefining Girly!