An Essay On Attempting To Read Essays

It’s no secret that I like to read. And I read a lot. And while I have my favorite genres, which probably 80% of the books I read fall into, I do read a bit of everything—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short story.

I have even read a couple horror genre books (a la Stephen King), which is not my genre at all. (Although I just googled “horror books” and several of my favorite classic books popped up, including Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Who knew?! Maybe I need to rethink my stance on horror.)

But one book genre I just cannot get into is the essay collection. Continue reading

The Book Rundown – March & April

So once again I have fallen behind on posting about books (as my last book review post was early March). Part of the reason I’ve fallen behind is I’ve read a few that I just don’t know exactly how to put into words what I thought (introvert/INFJ problems). And Part of it is I read so much, it’s hard to choose which books to review.

To remedy these two issues, I’ve decided to do shorter reviews so I can cover more books.

So introducing The Book Rundown! Continue reading

Book Pile – March 3

Okay, I admit I’ve been a slacker because I said this would be a “regular” post. Although, in my defense, I said it would be “somewhat” a regular post. Then again, I haven’t done a weekly book pile since the last (and only) Book Pile post, which was on January 28. Despite the fact I’ve read 16 books since January 1, I’ve only reported on 3 of them. Hence I’m a slacker.

I know, I know. Bad booknerd! [slaps my own hand] Continue reading

On Writing Book Reviews (or What to Expect from My Reviews)

Everyone has their own style and method to writing reviews of books. Some people choose to retell the premise of the book, often copying the book blurbs from the back of the book or from Goodreads. Others use cute or funny gifs and jpgs to express their opinions. Some simply quote passages of the book. Others do that with their opinions interspersed. One review I saw consisted of photos of the places discussed in the book. There was no real review one that one.

I saw one review that consisted only of photos of the places discussed in the book. There was no real review one that one other than the number of stars she gave the book.

To each their own. Continue reading

My Review of Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space RaceHidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

5 stars for the story. 4 on the writing.

First, I want to say well done to Author Margot Lee Shetterly for all the research and work she did to bring this story to light. She clearly put a lot of time and effort and it shows by the thoroughness of this story.

This book is a fascinating look at remarkable women, particularly African-American women, who overcame segregation, racism, gender politics, and more to not only secure jobs at NACA (NASA’s predecessor) in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but to thrive and contribute to some of the most important aeronautic and space achievements in the mid-twentieth century—so it’s quite impressive that this story was packaged in approximately 265 pages. (I say approximately because the book is bit less than 265 because each chapter started on the right hand page, even if there was no text from the previous chapter on the left hand page. And also while the complete book 349 pages, the last 1/4 is only the notes, bibliography, index, and reading group guide.)

My one main criticism is that this book should have been longer.

The book interwove the stories of several black female protagonists from the late 1930s through the early 1970s. While the cover mentions 4 main women (Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden), there are several more women discussed and many more women mentioned throughout the book. So many fascinating and interesting women who were pioneers not only in a workforce, but in math and scientific field, and this book just could not do justice to all of these amazing women. To do so would take several books. But if this book had another 100 pages or so, I think some of these stories could have been fleshed out a bit better (more on that below).

This book dealt with quite complex social and economic themes by showing us these women’s individual narratives (mainly the 4 listed above) set against the history and politics of the time, including the development and rise of NACA/NASA. While the book does nicely deal with the complicated themes of race and gender, I found the narrative to be choppy and disjointed, often overlapping and jumping from one person to the next, and forward and backward through time. This disjointedness created many mini-sections within each chapter, and contributed to the pacing getting bogged down. This resulted in me reading a few sections of a chapter, then putting the book aside for a while, which meant that although I normally would have finished a book this size in a couple days (maybe one weekend day), it instead took me a week and a half to finish it.

The writing also leaned more toward the technical (the science and math of aeronautics and space travel). While this technical writing supported the story of NACA/NASA’s development and the work being done by the women of and other staff, it lacked the warmth and depth of a personal narrative. While the post-WWII space race is fascinating, there are many books on the subject and I was more interested in the women’s personal narratives. More on their individual experiences, which we are really only given glimpses of. I realize each women’s personal journey heavily relied on what was happening in the world/NASA, but I would have liked to read a bit less NASA’s story and more on the women. Ms. Shetterly even notes in the epilogue that she had to cut quite a bit of personal narrative out. I find that disappointing, because I think readers would have gladly read another 100 or more pages.

I do admit that the complexity of this story would make it hard to separate the personal narratives from the story of NACA/NASA and the politics and history of that time—and Ms. Shetterly probably could have tripled the pages to tell this story. But I find it sad that parts were cut with no real explanation as to why other than to keep the book at a “reasonable” length. (I’m guessing the publisher wanted this to be under 300 pages probably for marketability purposes.)

Despite the issues I saw with the writing and the editorial choices, this is a book worth reading. This is a story that should be taught in secondary schools because there is not enough focus on the contributions of women, especially minority women and women in the sciences, throughout history.

View my “Read” bookshelf

Midnight, Texas—A New Fave Series

Day Shift (Midnight, Texas, #2)Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this new series after finishing Book 1, Midnight Crossroad—my review of Book 1 (see here) was in a bit of flux. But no longer. I’m hooked. Where I liked Book 1, or at least was intrigued by the characters, enough so to start Book 2, Book 2 cemented my addiction to Midnight, Texas. With the introductions of our town residents out of the way, Book 2, Day Shift, starts off strong with murder and doesn’t stop.

Continue reading

Saturday Book Pile – Jan 28

Given my great love of books, I’ve decided to write a somewhat regular post to discuss 3 books I’ve read and preview the ones that are next on the list to read.

I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. every year since 2011. Last year, I read 97 books. In the past 6 years, I averaged about 87 books per year. This year, my goal again is to read (and hopefully exceed) 78 books (1.5 books per week).

The point of that is to say that I’ve lots of fodder for this quasi-regular series (quasi-regular because I make no promises as to when it will might pop up).

This first post will be about 3 books* I’ve read since January 1.

Continue reading