Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Five

I had trouble narrowing it down to just five when I started to jot down possible books. So I tried for some variety. Lest these books appear a bit on the heavy side I hasten to add that I read copiously and incorporate a huge amount of "junk" or "light" reading into my lists, but when I cruised over a list of those books (http://www.bookcrossing.com/mybookshelf/jlautner) I did not find any that struck me as saying "something about me" - except that I enjoy junk reading.

The High Cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shoup. Why would anyone read about parking? And then recommend it? And then say it "says something about me"? The reasons: it's an excellent book that could change the way you look at how cities are built today; I recommend it because although it's heavy and full of charts it's actually easy to read and often funny; and what it says about me is that I spent over 20 years of my life as a city planner who was something of a parking nazi. This book, among other things, changed me.

PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives, by Frank Warren. A compilation of postcards from the famous blog. As I read through the whole book (which doesn't take long) I found that not only was I often amused or amazed at other people's secrets, but the cards also touched on part of my own past and some secrets of my own. When I started the book I wanted to send postcards there but couldn't think of any good secrets. By the time I was done I had several. Confession can be so liberating! Oh, the other thing: I have now taken to making my own postcards to send to others as thank you notes and expect to expand this idea.

Bait and Switch, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Hard on the heels of the amazing Nickel and Dimed, this book investigates what it's like to be middle-class or above and suddenly out of work. Ehrenreich again assumes the role to do the investigation. She is led to try out the many organizations that promise to give people the tools to find the higher-paid work they want, a gang of thieves more than happy to separate the not-yet-desperate from their dwindling funds. She finds just how difficult it is to get back into the workplace even when you do have the skills and the ability to present yourself well. Many myths are exploded here, quietly. I am among the middle class and I worked jobs like these. When I was young there were always jobs available for my talents. Now? Not nearly as many.

Because it is Bitter and Because it is My Heart, by Joyce Carol Oates. Not so much the circumstances as the feelings and the time. I felt a connection to the main character, Iris, not because I am much like her but because I too was shaped by my world and I grew up when she did. Oates captures what's inside as well as any other writer I read - and I read a lot. The story stayed with me long after I'd forgotten any details.

The End of Faith, by Sam Harris. Harris takes to task not only the fanatic religious zealots who threaten our world today, but the so-called "moderates" who practice what they consider "tolerance". Because it is religion, people feel they cannot criticize. Yet we wouldn't "tolerate" madmen who believe space aliens are coming and that they must therefore shoot people to make room for them (I'm making this part up, obviously). We have developed a blind eye when it comes to religions, cutting them slack and treading lightly when we should be asking the hard questions. I'm an atheist and I am therefore in a group of people that is hugely misunderstood and marginalized. I don't proselytize and I don't hold myself up as better than those who believe in a higher being. Given how entrenched religions are in this world it's easy to see why just the physical representations can make such belief convincing. My plea to this world is to make your religion, if you have one, yours personally and do not impose it on the rest of us.

My book review blog: http://bookishjudith.blogspot.com

8 comments:

kookiejar said...

Welcome Judith. Have you read 'Demon-Haunted World' by Carl Sagan? I think I had a reaction to that book that is similar to your reaction to 'The End of Faith'. We have a copy of 'Faith' somewhere around here, I guess now I have an excuse to read it. Thanks.

Dewey said...

I have The End of Faith on my TBR pile, so I may well choose that.

Dewey said...

And I'm going to subscribe to your blog, because it seems atheists are rare in the blogsphere, so we have to band together.

kookiejar said...

Maybe not so rare, Dewey. You, me and Judith just in this challenge alone, and there may be more who have not said so.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I love this sentence: "I spent over 20 years of my life as a city planner who was something of a parking nazi." Hey, parking nazi, I'm a former "manpower planner" which, I'm sure, is or would be politically incorrect today. Some cities seem to have had no planners at all or planners who didn't really like people, don't you think?

Lisa said...

It will be interesting to see the mix of "religious" people and atheists on this challenge. Will the religious people dare to read any of the atheist choices -- or vice versa?? I'm a Christian, and pledge right now to read The End of Faith in the spirit of this challenge!!

3M said...

I'm a Christian, too, and I've thought about reading Kookiejar's suggestion by Carl Sagan. It's kind of long, though. I'm still thinking about it.

Madame Rubies said...

Hubby and I use the Postsecret books for College Small group at church.