Unwise Passion by Alan Pell Crawford

303519I probably finished this book a month ago, but as you can see, it was so fascinating and interesting that I just had to write about it. /s

I asked for and received this book for Christmas. The title and synopsis seemed intriguing since it was about scandal, women’s place in society and Virginia’s colonial aristocracy. Unfortunately, the book is really not about any of those things. It seems to have no point of view and isn’t interesting the slightest. It jumps in time for no reason, going back to explain things in the middle of explaining other things. The “scandal” and it’s results are actually downplayed in favor of explaining more familial bonds/ties/relationships. It almost seems like the author started this project to get the answers about what really happened that night, didn’t find what he was looking for and decided to continue writing for another 200 pages. Very disappointing.

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

2845287I love the way Sarah Vowell writes. She manages to delve into complex historical concepts with wit and wisdom and without cliche – unlike me. And of course, this book is no different.

I’ve wanted to read this book since I saw her on The Daily Show and found out that she had a new book coming out. She didn’t disappoint me. I loved the way she was able to seamlessly go from scripture to primary sources to commentary to current events, making me laugh along the way. I don’t know that I necessarily learned anything new, but I liked reading it. And I can’t wait for her next book – if only so Jon can have her back on his show!

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

12358My recent trip to NYC gave me a 4-hour bus ride in each direction which gave me plenty of time to finish this fabulous collection of essays by one of my favorite authors. Sarah Vowell has a great voice and a lot of her viewpoints and opinions coincide with mine, so I find myself doing a lot of nodding and “yes!”-ing while I read.

Written in December 2001, it’s an interesting time capsule of Election 2000 and post-9/11 essays that try to make sense of the world and our country in a time that didn’t really make any sense. A lot of what she writes is topical to that moment and contains things that I haven’t really thought about in the intervening years. But mostly, it’s just thought-provoking, humorous short pieces that make me smile and nod because it’s so true.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

3110This book was first recommended to me about a year ago by a very good friend of mine. He knows my taste in books and quirks of geekiness better than probably anyone thus far. So when he said that I would love it, I took him at his word. Unfortunately, it has languished on my shelf for longer than I would like to admit, but I finally picked it up on January 1st to my inaugural (no pun intended) book for this year’s quest to read 50 books in 365 days.

Sarah Vowell writes the way I wish that I could write and inspires me to once again put pen to paper. She revels in her love of presidential death and assassination and the other quirks of history that make the hair on your arms stand up. She interconnects the events of the nineteenth century in and out of the tales that she is telling while discussing her journey to each and every landmark associated with the last days of the three Presidents she writes about. The anecdotes from the road are just as vivid and well-told as the historical ones. Reading this book makes me want to meet her in Chelsea for a cup of coffee, discussing the geekiest of geeky American history minutia as the cooler-than-cool New Yorkers walk past.

It took me 14 days to get through this book, not because of its density, but purely because some days I was too lazy to pull a book out on the train. So, I am a tad bit behind my book quota for this year. But unlike last year, when I didn’t finish a book until February 5th (mostly because I got bogged down in a supremely dense, but lovely, biography of John Adams during January), I feel positive about my progress so far. Here’s to reaching and exceeding the goal in 2007!

Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster by Michael Eric Dyson

586517This is the first of four books I am reading for the class I am TAing, Introduction to American Politics. The professor I am working with wanted to try something new in this summer session, assigning current critiques of American political culture to inspire critical thinking about what we believe, why and what the future of our core political values might hold.

Most of this book was a provocative and harsh critique of the invisibility of the black poor in this country who became visible when the government they trust to help them through a “natural” disaster failed them. There were some tangential issues that, while interesting in their own right, had little to do with the original thesis of the book. Dyson weaves a tight narrative of the events leading up to and during the Hurricane Katrina incident, with heartbreaking detail. Some of the anecdotes are almost laughable in their absurdity, except most of the time, someone died because the right papers weren’t signed or someone didn’t have the right credentials and there’s nothing funny about that. I will remember the doctor, who wasn’t a licensed FEMA physician and was made to stop doing chest compressions on a dying man because of that fact. While I may not agree with all of Dyson’s points (and in fact, I think he missed a big one with his lack of exploration into the white and non-white labels in regards to class), but this book will stay with me for a long time and I highly recommend it.