The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

the professor and the madmanAlmost ten years ago now, I called an old college roommate for help with my Christmas shopping. “I’d like to get a book for my dad,” I said, “but I have no idea what’s good in the type of books he likes.” Without missing a beat, she gave me two fabulous suggestions: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. The conversation was important to me for two reasons: first, I went away hoping to someday be able to rattle off book recommendations so easily (I’m getting there). Second, I ended up giving (and reading) a book to my dad that led to some great conversation. Continue reading

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

cleopatra-a-lifeMy college major offered two different options for the Greek & Roman mythology credit: Introduction or Advanced. Although I heard great things about the advanced class, I signed up for the introduction because my mythological knowledge was seriously lacking. Imagine my frustration when the professor stood up on the first day of class and said, “We all know the stories, so we’re not going to talk about those.” I for one did not know the stories and spent the semester doing double readings to try and keep up. The first time I tried to read Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff felt just as discouraging as that. Continue reading

7 Picture Books for Your Mini Ecologist

mini ecologistAnyone who has read to a child for more than 3 minutes recently knows that animals are favorite subject matter for picture books. Since I’m married to a biology professor who specializes in ecology, I often hear grumbling from the other room about how many of the animals would have simply eaten each other by page 4. While we enjoy ridiculous animal books as much as the next family, we especially love books that are both entertaining and accurate. If you have a budding ecologist at your house, I highly recommend all 7 of these fantastic reads: Continue reading

A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins

a walk across americaI was recently telling a friend that I’m not a big memoir reader (though I make exceptions for book club picks and funny women), when I looked over at my bookcase and saw A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. It is one of the books that has impacted me the most in my young adult years. It’s also a memoir. Oops. I should probably take back the disparaging comments I’ve made about the genre over the years. This is the grandparent of the all-too-common-these-days books about the authors’ year doing such and such. Originally published in 1979, A Walk Across America details the miles Jenkins and his dog Cooper walked across the country in an effort to understand America and find focus for his life. Continue reading

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

boys in the boatI mentioned on Facebook last week that I’ve recently read two really great books that take place in the years leading up to WWII. The first, Flight of Dreams, was a suspenseful historical fiction about the last flight of the HindenburgThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown was neither fiction nor overly suspenseful, but it was no less fantastic. And like any great book about a historical event, this one had me watching videos and reading articles long after I finished the book.

The Boys in the Boat follows the story of the University of Washington crew coaches and athletes as they struggled to be taken seriously against Eastern colleges, battled their University of California rivals, and fought for a place (and medal) in the 1936 Olympics. Continue reading