Read Harder Essay Anthologies

Posted on Monday, April 9, 2018 by Reading Addict

Melcher's Woman Reading by a WindowI may be a little weird (aren’t we all?), but I tend to read a lot of nonfiction, and I actually love reading essays. I don’t usually make the time to sit down with a magazine to read the articles, but it seems different to me if they are collected in a book format. I also find essay anthologies to be appealing because I can just skim (or skip) the ones I’m not particularly interested in and linger over the ones I like. And if I need to put it down and walk away for a while, it’s easy to come back to later.

If you are participating in the Read Harder 2018 Challenge, task #22 read an essay anthology, and here are some of my favorites:

The Fire Next Time Book CoverThe Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin is a classic and is just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1963. I love reading and listening to James Baldwin. I have seen interviews with him that just floored me. It’s a small book of a letters to Baldwin’s nephew and an essay on America’s “racial nightmare.” Continue reading “Read Harder Essay Anthologies”

Have Sum Pi

Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by Reading Addict

Math jokeHappy Pi Day!

I remember back in school learning the value of pi out to as many digits as I could manage. I would like to say that I memorized it all the way to 20 digits past the decimal or more, but that might be a tall tale. I can at least still remember it to five digits (3.14159). It might have been hard, but it was also fun.

Have you heard the urban legend about the US legislator who tried to make a law redefining pi so that it equals three? I’ve heard it told that the legislator was from several different states, and the legend is usually on a rather vague time scale. It happened last week? Or it could have been decades ago. That alone is enough to consider the story to be a hoax. But truth is stranger than fiction, as there actually was a case in American history where someone really did try to redefine the value of pi. Continue reading “Have Sum Pi”

Literary Links: The Spanish Flu of 1918

Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2018 by Reading Addict

Pale Rider book coverIt has been 100 years since the Spanish Flu pandemic. The flu, which was first recorded in March 1918, killed 50 to 100 million people by March 1920.  It coincided with the First World War, which often overshadows the pandemic in our collective memory. Despite the fact far more people worldwide died of the flu, the two may be inextricable. Laura Spinney examines that connection in the recently published “Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World.” Spinney writes, “Conflict makes people hungry and anxious; it uproots them, packs them into insanitary camps and requisitions their doctors. It makes them vulnerable to infection, and then it sets large numbers of them in motion so that they can carry that infection to new places. In every conflict of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more lives were lost to disease than to battlefield injuries.” Spinney also suggests that memory for a pandemic simply takes time to develop because “… it’s not so easy to count the dead. They don’t wear uniforms, display exit wounds or fall down in a circumscribed arena. They die in large numbers in a short space of time over a vast expanse of space, and many of them disappear into mass graves, not only before their disease has been diagnosed, but often before their lives have been recorded.” Continue reading “Literary Links: The Spanish Flu of 1918”

The Scoop on the Coop: Raising Urban Chickens

Posted on Friday, February 9, 2018 by Reading Addict

photo of white chicken taken from outside fence

Many years ago, just before my family left the suburbs of Dallas to move to Columbia, we felt the need to take on City Hall in the attempt to legalize backyard chickens. I will be honest with you– our chickens were outlaws. It was legal to have them in Dallas, but the suburbs were a different story. Anyway … that is how I earned the moniker of “The Crazy Chicken Lady.” My notoriety followed me to the gas station, library, grocery store and pretty much anywhere else we went. I’m still a little crazy about chickens. We were so excited that we could have our chickens here in Columbia guilt-free.

I’m not sure if I can even tell you how we, otherwise normal urban/suburbanites, fell in with the likes of chickens but when we fell, we fell madly in love. It could have been the wonderful Dallas Earth Day celebrations that featured a local backyard chicken group (and their chickens.) On second thought, it could have been from reading books like “My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big City Backyard into a Farm: A Cautionary Tale” by Manny Howard. By the way, that “cautionary” part is no lie, but I was intrigued.  I would like to think that we didn’t dive right off the deep end like Mr. Howard obviously and hilariously did, but we did end up with a backyard full of chickens with names like Ingrid Birdman, Gwyneth Poultry and Madame Curry. They are the best garden help! Continue reading “The Scoop on the Coop: Raising Urban Chickens”

Posthumously Published Books: Read Harder 2018

Posted on Friday, January 12, 2018 by Reading Addict

Man sitting on a bench reading in the snow

It’s January once again — time for reflection and setting new goals. It’s also time for book challenges! I almost always set a yearly goal of so many books but this year the Columbia Public Library is hosting a year-long program around reading through the 2018 Read Harder Challenge. How could I not participate in that? The very first task on the Read Harder Challenge is a book published posthumously, meaning that it must have been published after the author has died. I have a few that I have read and loved. Continue reading “Posthumously Published Books: Read Harder 2018”

A Month of Gratitude

Posted on Friday, November 24, 2017 by Reading Addict

Photo of trees in autumn

Sometimes it’s easy to be grateful because some things simply demand gratitude, such as avoiding a collision or winning a lottery — or even just finding $20 in an old coat pocket. But it can also be hard to be grateful. Every day. Day after day. Life gets busy and overwhelming partly because of the big things swirling around us, but also because of the small and petty things that demand our attention. It can be hard to refocus and reflect on our blessings. That is why November, the month of Thanksgiving, has become my time to make a concerted effort by focusing on a different gratitude each day. And, as with most things in my life, that includes a healthy dose of books. Continue reading “A Month of Gratitude”

The Future of Bees!

Posted on Monday, October 23, 2017 by Reading Addict

photo of bee collecting pollen

Did you know that Missouri has more than 450 species of bees, including several kinds of bumble bee? Many of those natives have evolved to pollinate very specific plants such as blueberries, squash, tomatoes or peppers. Did you also know that the honeybee is NOT a native of the US? Bees, both our native bees and the honeybee, are responsible for pollinating around 75% of the produce that we eat, and they maintain the habitats on which many other animals rely. That’s a big responsibility. Continue reading “The Future of Bees!”

Perfect Timing

Posted on Monday, August 28, 2017 by Reading Addict

Painting by Egg of two women in a carriage

Have you ever read just the right book at just the right time and everything was enhanced by the experience? My family recently took a trip to Vienna and Munich and we had a wonderful time, but it was made even better (for me, anyway) by two perfectly timed books.

The Lady in Gold book coverThe first book was “The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” by Anne Marie O’Connor. This book is a convoluted story moving from the crazy art world of the early 1900s to the crazy art auction world of today. It is also a story that spans from the Holocaust and Austria’s complicity all the way to today’s collective guilt on one hand or the lack of it on the other. Continue reading “Perfect Timing”

Danger! View It Safely: The Solar Eclipse

Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 by Reading Addict

photo of Eclipse from onboard Apollo 12
“S80-37406 (14-24 Nov. 1969) — This photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon.

In many cultures, a solar eclipse was thought to be due to an animal or demon trying to eat the sun or moon. People would bang on pots and pans or drums to drive the threat away. For some cultures an eclipse is a time of terror, but for others it is a time for reflection and reconciliation. Whatever meanings we ascribe to it, we know that solar eclipses are natural occurrences whereby the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. This year’s eclipse is the first total solar eclipse to be visible in the continental U.S. since 1978 and the first to cross the entire country from west to east since 1918. Columbia is lucky to be in the middle of that path. We will have 2 minutes and 37 seconds of totality. That doesn’t seem very long but if you didn’t know the science behind it, it could be a bit terrifying. Continue reading “Danger! View It Safely: The Solar Eclipse”

What Is “Fake News”?

Posted on Friday, August 4, 2017 by Reading Addict

image of facebook on mobile device surrounded by "fake news"

Last Thanksgiving, while we were driving to visit extended family, we caught a segment on NPR about a man in the suburbs of Los Angeles who created fake news in order to try to expose extremist groups. His effort failed miserably, but it did highlight how easy it is to disseminate fake news.

We have heard a lot about fake news over the past year. I mean — a lot! But what does “fake news” even mean? There are websites, like The Borowitz Report and The Onion, that specialize in news satire, and, while it’s usually obvious that the stories from those sources are not “real,” sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the satire from real news. There are also outlets like The Daily Show (originally hosted by Jon Stewart) and The Colbert Report that have been credited with covering the news better than actual news outlets. While that may be true in a sense, they are not “journalists,” and they are technically fake news, but this is also not what is meant by “fake news.”  As pointed out by Sandra Borden and Chad Tew in their journal article, “The Role of Journalist and the Performance of Journalism: Ethical Lessons from “Fake” News” in the Journal of Mass Media Ethics,” “Stewart and Colbert do not share journalists’ moral commitments. Therefore, their performances are neither motivated nor constrained by these commitments … Rather than evaluating the work of Colbert and Stewart in the role of journalists, we propose analyzing their contributions to media ethics in the role of media critics.” Continue reading “What Is “Fake News”?”