January is off to a solid reading start, largely because I’ve developed some ankle woes and my gym/hiking/cycling time has become extra reading time for three weeks running. I’m about to see an orthopedic specialist, though, so here’s hoping I can find out what’s ailing me!
Read but not reviewed in the past week were:
- The Most They Ever Had, Rick Bragg
- The Guardians, John Grisham
- Welcome to Your Brain, Sandra Aamodt
First up was John Grisham’s The Guardians, which…well, I can only echo my review of The Whistler. It’s a very vanilla legal thriller: perfectly enjoyable, perfectly forgettable. The inclusion of a cabin cursed by voodoo adds an interesting flair to the endgame, but’s just a story about a lawyer trying to free people failed by systems that favor verdicts more than justice. Did the lawyer have a name? Did his victims? Yes, but I’ll have forgotten them come this weekend.
Next, and continuing with my exploration of Alabama humorist/storyteller Rick Bragg, I considered his reflection of a mill village in Calhoun County, The Most they Ever Had. For nearly a century, the textile mill provided for the economic health of its people, even as it destroyed their physical health. It was central to a fight for human dignity in the early 1930s, as the community was forced to strike against the feudal rule of a particularly foul boss, and for decades thereafter the mill was one of the few places in Calhoun County where a working -class family could earn a decent living. The book is not a formal history of the mill, though; instead, its history is learned through the lives of people who lived and worked at the mill their entire lives, sometimes in pride and sometimes with regret; their stories, from organizing a union to losing an army, flesh out the story of the mill until its closing.
Lastly, I kicked off this year’s science reading with Welcome to Your Brain, Sandra Aamodt’s survey of all things grey matter. Aamodt begins with a physical tour, lobe by lobe, before visiting aspects of the brain — memory, emotion, reason, changes with age, and so on. Aamodt and Wang purposely try to correct popular misconceptions about the brain — that we only use 10% of our minds, for instance, or that concussions are a reliable means of incurring and recovering from amnesia. As surveys go, it’s broad and generally fascinating, but the amount of material to cover means that interested reads are only given an agonizing taste of many subjects.
Next week…..three of my science holds have just come in, and while I’ve taken care of the brain books, that leaves two outstanding — one on animal intelligence, the other on human sexuality. (Neither were on my science survey 2020 preview…)