Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, 2003) is a fantastic portrait of a complex man. I have always loved Ben Franklin (ever since I read Ben and Me by Robert Lawlor as a child). Reading Isaacson’s biography helped me to see why I liked it him so much: he was, in general, a likeable man.
White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, and Pratfalls of the Presidents’ Children by Joe Rhatigan (Imagine Publishing, 2012) provides a fun and colorful picture of the history of children in the White House. From George Washington’s step-daughter to the Obama girls, White House Kids gives an interesting portrait of how life changed for the children of the nation’s most well known public official. It’s not easy being a kid, and being thrust in the limelight while still a child obviously brings an entirely new set of difficulties.
I’m not usually interested in pop culture celebrity biographies, but White House Kids provided an interesting contrast to other celebrity biographies out there. Because of the historical nature of the White House and the presidents, reading this book gave historical insight into the presidents. A number of things surprised me about White House Kids, mostly because of the breadth it covered through history and the interest it provides for youth today who may be interested in history, the presidents, as well as current “celebrity kids” like Malia and Sasha Obama. Continue Reading
Tomorrow is Nigerian Independence Day, and to celebrate, Amy Reads has challenged us to read and post about literature by a Nigerian born author (or an author of Nigerian heritage). The story I chose to read for this project was “Cell One,” the first story in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Here are some jumbled thoughts on Cell One.
In some respects, this was an unfortunately sad story for this project, for the view of Nigerian politics is rather drear. On the other hand, because it was so well done, I had to force myself to not read any more of Adichie’s collection (and I desperately wanted to) because I’ve been promising myself I’m going to read the collection of stories slowly, despite my inclination to breeze through it. (Since I’ve already read Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, these twelve stories are all I have left until something new is published. Of course, Half of a Yellow Sun is in need of a reread, so we’ll see…)Continue Reading
Voltaire’s Candide (originally published 17581) is alternatively titled Optimism. A rosy outlook on life is the main target of Voltaire’s satire. Rather than embracing a truly pessimistic approach to the world, however, Voltaire seems to me to be arguing for a realistic and reasonable approach to life. The humorous look at both optimism and pessimism (as well as politics, religion, war, chivalric romance, and more) provides fuel for his fire.
I am not familiar with the eighteenth-century philosophies prevalent during the Age of Reason so my response to a satire of the era is more superficial than I wish it was. Because I lead the discussion for my book group, though, I can say I better appreciate Candide now than when I first read it at 18 or when I reread it two weeks ago.
This post contains “spoilers” for Candide.Continue Reading
- translated from the French by Roger Pearson, Oxford World’s Classics. All page numbers come from 2008 World’s Classics edition ↩