Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Finished The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the first collection of Holmes short stories, each originally published in the Strand Magazine, then published in book form in 1892. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but because these deal with the same two characters it's more like a collection of sketches. The stories were fun to read and while often predictable, suspenseful nonetheless. When the client in "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" is trapped inside the terrible stamping machine it reminded me of the hero in The Phantom of the Opera being trapped in the same sort of situation. In several stories Holmes mentions the menace that lies in wait in the quiet country hamlets, spoiling Watson's enjoyment of the scenery while they rush through the countryside by train. It seems funny to me that Holmes eventually retires to the country to keep bees when he seems to have such a horror of it.

Daniel Boone

Finished Daniel Boone written and illustrated by James Daugherty. It won the Newbery Medal in 1940. This book joins The Story of Mankind as one of my least favorite Newbery Medalists. In it's telling of Boone's adventures on the American frontier, it portrays the brutality and prejudice of the time all too vividly. Boone is a hero fighting for freedom and land. Native Americans are depicted as blood-thirsty savages. I found this perspective puzzling after having read some of the preceding Newbery Medalists, in particular Calico Bush and Caddie Woodlawn, where settlers learn to live peaceably with neighboring tribes.

Daugherty was trained as a painter. His illustrations for the book are lurid, disturbing, and while skillfully rendered, difficult to appreciate.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lady Audley's Secret

Finished Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Originally published in 1862, it is a sensational novel involving murder, bigamy and madness. Braddon wrote many stories of this sort that were serialized in penny dreadfuls for the entertainment of the lower classes. This made me think of Louisa May Alcott's sensational fiction of the same period.

The prose is very straightforward and accessible. The pace is fast and the story compelling. In some ways I think the use of travel by railroad and message by telegraph increased the pace even more. Robert Audley's fondness for his missing friend George Tallboys and his attraction to George's sister Clara, in whose face he sees George, reminded me of Charles Rider's attraction to the Marchmain family in Brideshead Revisted. The story itself also reminded me of Wilke Collins' The Woman in White.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mindful Eating

Finished Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. I noticed it in a local book store and thought it might be a good guide to changing my eating habits on the path to better health. Having read The Mindful Way Through Depression last year, I was already familiar with the basic concepts of mindfulness. I think there are times when all of us eat without being in the moment. Wait, I just ate three pieces of pizza? I don't even remember doing that. This book helps you to cultivate a mindful eating practice and to recognize which of the seven types of hunger is distracting you during the day. I found this book interesting and full of easy to employ suggestions.

Jan Chozen Bays is a pediatrician and co-founder of the Great Vow Zen Monastery of Clatskanie, Oregon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, D.C.

I recently read My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, D.C., written by Senator Ted Kennedy and illustrated by David Small. The book is about Splash, Kennedy's Portugese water dog, who went to work with his master every day. I first learned about this book when I read the New York Times article My Life as a Dog, by Colin H. P. Buckley back in February. Buckley writes about his experience as an intern answering letters and e-mails written to Splash by children who read the book. The book itself is charming, as are Small's illustrations. The cover image of Kennedy bears such a strong resemblance to the late senator that it made me smile. Small won the 2001 Caldecott Medal for his illustrations in So You Want to Be President? and the 1998 Caldecott Honor Medal for illustrating The Gardener.

My Day: The Best of Eleanor Roosevelt's Acclaimed Newspaper Columns, 1936-1962

Finished My Day: The Best of Eleanor Roosevelt's Acclaimed Newspaper Columns, 1936-1962. I took my time with this, reading two or three entries at breakfast on work days. I learned more about 20th century history from this book than any I read in school or after. It offers everything that Roosevelt's autobiography does not, her perspective, her opinions and her passions. An interesting and excellent read. Highly recommended.