Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language by Esther Schor (2016)

I feel I am doing a disservice to the author by my rating. The book is well-written by an author who enjoys depth and detail. Yes, the point she wanted to make could have been said with far less words on far less pages. But, this is a memoir, not a cold, facts-only history. I think many of us were led into believing this book was something it isn’t and that’s not necessarily the author’s fault. The descriptive blurb on the back cover of the Advanced Reader’s Edition, which is what I read, makes it seem like this work will be “the first full history of a constructed language … from its invention, through its … golden age, to its suppression … and its resurgence … [and] dedicated following to this day.”

The work does address all these things, but the way it does it is in the form of a memoir, complete with abundance of conversations, personal information, observations of people and surroundings, feelings, opinions, and in that way it is like a documentary film and is more focused on how Esperantists have learned, developed, and struggled with the language since its inception than anything else. This focus is clearly stated in the Preface: “I wanted to … find out why real people choose this language, over others … I wrote this book to discover why Esperanto has, unbelievably, beaten all the odds … this book is a biography of Esperanto’s collective.creators, the Esperanto community, and a report from the trenches.”

So, it isn’t nearly what I thought or assumed it would be and what it was, for me, was too much opinion and discussion (which probably makes me a bad candidate for becoming an Esperantist) and not enough fact and history about Zamenhof’s vision. I have one or two other, much smaller, books on Esperanto tbat do a better job of that. And, of course, any online search will tell me as much. This work by Schor is literally a bridge of words – she bridges the why/how of the unchanging past history of Esperanto with the immanent, immediate realities of current usage. She has honored the intent, while I, unfortunately, did not value it because I’m not that invested in it.

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9079-6

Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co.

[Library Thing Early Reviewers Advanced Reader Edition, provided for free by the publisher, in exchange for my honest reveiw.]

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Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Crown Publishers, 2016

978-0-553-44743-9


It took me a very long time to get through this book. I had to often put it aside out of anger and frustration, and depression. Having once lived in a WI trailer park – albeit, one much better than that in the study – the topic hit home. Little by little, rent went up but the park living conditions went down. Roads were filled with deep potholes (kids would swim in them) that were not repaired for years, in winter the cold weather would burst water pipes and cause the asphalt to buckle upwards (again, not repaired for years), park rules only applied to certain tenants and not others, police would not address most complaints because “it’s private property – call the manager” (who lived out of state and whose office was only open M-F 9-5).

The book is written in the form of a “documentary” – you follow along as the author interacts with and observes the residents, and he then fills you in on background info such as laws, history, assistance programs, and employment. This is not a book you pick up for casual reading. It would benefit social workers, proponents for affordable housing, educators, and, one hopes, lawmakers. It would also benefit those who take a dim view of low-income housing, but they aren’t the kind who would read it. 
[Free copy provided by Blogging for Books, in exchange for a review.]

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone

I enjoyed the book. While not something I would read again or likely recommend to others, I did laugh aloud a few times, and even shed tears once. In contrast to that, I cringed numerous times, hoping that the animal hoarding and seeming neglect, along with what I viewed as highly disfunctional family interactions and questionable living conditions, were merely comedic exaggerations.

Some of the chapters, as expected, were better than others. It was a mix of very short experiments and much longer ones (hours v. weeks or months). I was confused, until I read some reviews, about the passage of time. Apparently several years ago by, but that isn’t clearly laid out in the telling. In one chapter, her kid is ___ years old, and in the next, she is in college. The jump distracted and confused me. I also felt that I had missed reading a book prior to this one or something because I didn’t quite grasp the family dynamics – were these troubled foster kids? Natual born kids? Adopted kids? Why did the boy have so much trouble in school? Why did the girl with physical handicaps lie all the time? Why were the schools ridiculously bad? I felt I needed to understand in order to know why the author did or said things in reaction to her kids.

My favorite chapter was the nursing home chapter. It seemed the most real and heartfelt. Having recently worked in a nursing facility, I could resonate with her observations and experiences, and agree with how uplifting it can be to give these people even the smallest kindness. My least favorite chapter was the few hours she spent brushing her cats and complaining about how greasy they were (or fearful, or bullied, or obviously in need of more space and veterinary care). Some of the other chapters were too cliche or out-dated (meditation, internet, affirmations).

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

May 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61620-416-7

[I received this book free from the publisher, courtsy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers, in exchange for my opinion.]

The Windfall: A Novel by Diksha Basu

Didn’t really capture my attention through the first 1/4, so many characters introduced that I began to lose track of who was who and which were supposed to be the main characters. Lots of description and side-track/off-shoot stories about each, I almost gave up reading in frustration. But just about then, the focus narrowed a bit (as the main characters Mr. & Mrs. Jha started moving their belongings), and the story captured my attention so much that I found it hard to put the book down.
I found the side story of Mrs. Ray delightful (could she have her own novel, please?) and I increasingly delighted in Mrs. Jha’s side of the main story, feeling her surprise, discomfort, longing, and worry right along with her. Some elements were standard fare (the son’s conflict about an American girlfriend v. Indian girlfriend, the competative wealthy neighbors and wealthy life not all it seems), but that familiarity pleasantly countered the new information I learned as an American non-Indian reader.
The nearly equal emphasis on the side characters and stories was also new to me, and I don’t recall coming across another story which dealt with non-main characters in such a way. Perhaps this reflects a more collective life in Delhi where life’s stories are more interwoven than highly solo, individualized America. At first, it confused and alienated me, as mentioned, but I eventually saw how much the main story was enriched by the side stories.
The Windfall: A Novel by Diksha Basu, published in the United States by Crown Publishers, June 2017. ISBN 978-0-451-49893-9
[LibraryThing Early Readers’ ARC, honest opinion given in exchange for free copy]

JustPerimeter: A Contemporary Portrait of Lake Michigan by Kevin J. Miyazaki (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2014)

Beautiful photos of the Lake’s neighbors. We come in many shapes, sizes, colors and have a wide variety of jobs, hobbies, interests, and concerns. Pictured here are hikers, fishermen and women, birders, boaters, surfers, actors, Coast Guard, steelworkers, vacationers, swimmers, police officers, professors and wildlife conservationists. In the faces are pride, joy, trust, self-assurance, friendliness, and amusement. I was pleasantly surprised to see my Biology professor pictured here (now retired but looking younger than ever – he is a local fixture on the shore!) as well as one of the directors of the nature preserve that is within sight of my house and where I spend much time hiking and photographing all year round.

While the focus of the book is on the people here, not the Lake itself, and what we are concerned with when it comes to our awesome body of water, not every person photographed gets to express their opinion and those who do only get two or three sentences under their pic. Each person, however, is identified by name and either where they’re from, where they were visiting when photographed and their situation (job, retired, student, etc). 

In between every handful of people photos is a photo of the Lake, all relatively calm days and, due to the very short timeframe, all warm weather photos. It was a bit disappointing to me that the project didn’t extend into winter because the Lake is equally beautiful then, it’s still relevant to our lives then, and there are still surprising activities in, on, and around it then. And, even though it’s not a “Lake” book but a “people of the Lake” book, there needed to be a photo of the full moon over the Lake and images of the cars lined up on the shoreline on a beautiful summer night just to take in the breathtaking view. 

(As a side note, the man who is identified as Frank Ettawageshik, “a Native American leader” who “sang me the Native American water song” is more specifically from the Waganakising Odawak tribe which is part of the Little Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The song was likely from his people, rather than a song that all indigenous peoples sing.)

ISBN 978-0-87020-676-4

-I received a copy of this book via the  LibraryThing Member Giveaway.

PRIDE: Celebrating Diversity & Community by Robin Stevenson

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Wow. So much better than I imagined. This is a celebratory book, a work of joy, and an offering of love. I didn’t realize it was meant for children. It doesn’t come across as a book directed towards kids – even though I did notice an unusual number of photos of children in the Pride movement – because it doesn’t “talk” in a childish way as many other informative books for children do. It covers the history of Pride, the variety, the worldwide aspect, the triumphs and the ongoing resistance. I learned things! On the last page is a list of other Orca Book Publishers’ offerings and the covers look similar to the Pride cover – colorful and joyful – so I assume they are similar in feel and content. I plan to pick up one or two others and keep an eye on Orca. So far, I’m really impressed and I rarely take note of publishers!

The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey & Gretchen LeBuhn

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I enjoyed this book very much and will be referring to it often as I continue to improve my bee-friendly garden. Firstly, the photos of bees are amazing. You get a handful of the most common varieties in glorious, colorful close-ups. This is a bee-lovers bonus.

There are, too, nice close-ups of flowers and of a variety of gardens/settings to promote ideas for your own design. While the photos made me rather jealous of what others have, the book made very clear that no matter what you have, you can use it to help bees. Everything counts.

The book went into more depth than I expected. I thought it would be just plants and garden designs, but it went into detail on bees’ life cycles, nesting, why they like certain plants more than others, how and when they collect what they need, and even how/why plants offer nectar/pollen. I learned facts that amazed me and enriched my learning beyond just having a pretty flower patch that hopefully attracts bees.

Included were lists of the best bee-attracting plants to put in your garden/property divided by region and zone. A list of “citizen science” projects, organizations, seed sellers/nurseries, websites, and a bibliography and index complete the book, making it far more useful than just a how-to garden tool.

*This honest review was provided in exchange for a free copy of the book from bloggingforbooks.com