April Reads 2019

books, catholicism, Harry Potter

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

I did plenty of reading this month, trying to get my hour a day in. It often turned into a lot more than an hour though with all the post-dissertation free time. I’m still making my way through the Harry Potter series (I’d like to be done prior to the baby’s arrival) and through CathLit2019. I read a lot more nonfiction and had a nice return to some historical reading set in the Amazons.

One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

I loved One Beautiful Dream. It was definitely one of my favorites for this month and I know I will be returning to it again. You can read my review of this book here.

Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict XVI

 

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

 

One of my April goals was inspired by this book. Sometimes Writing Down the Bones got a little too woo-woo for me, but I think it did have some great practical suggestions.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb

I thought this book was kind of underwhelming. You can read my review of it here.

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

I have a review of Lanier’s book to be published elsewhere hopefully soon. I’ll share a link to it is up, but for now all you need to know is I am not a cat person.

River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candace Millard

I liked River of Doubt. It combined some of my favorite things history, politics, and the Amazon rain forest. You can read my review of this book here.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling 

Goblet of Fire…the one where it all gets a little real, all too real.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Another re-read. There is a reason why Seven Habits is an absolute classic.

What did you read in April? Any big reads planned for May?

A Review of River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey

books, reading

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’ll admit I feel a little scatterbrained at the moment. This is why they say you should not check your email until after noon! I received some good news – an academic journal accepted one of my dissertation chapters for publication. As this will be my first ever peer review publication (after only two rejections and one revise and resubmit), I am very, very happy – and distracted – but mostly happy. I worked on my revise and resubmit edits after completing my dissertation and I was burnt out on Rousseau while working on them. I actually have not returned to a single word of Rousseau since I resubmitted. I think the break has been good and I’m going to continue on with it, even if I do miss my citizen of Geneva a bit.

Anyway – I recently finished reading The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard.  I may be taking a break from Rousseau, but I always seem to end up back in the state of nature. As might be suggested from the title, this book on TR reflects not on his presidential or political career, but on his journey on the Rio da Duvida —  the River of Doubt – which later became known as the Rio Roosevelt. She suggests that this is a response to his defeat as the Progressive Party candidate in 1912 as leader of the Bull Moose Party, but moreover a continuation of the “strenuous life” he had been living ever since he decided as a youth to “make his body” in response to his asthma.

What I know of TR has more to do with his political thought and less to do with his biographic life, but he has been a president who has always intrigued me. Frankly, it is hard to imagine a modern president today (whether a Clinton, Bush, Obama, or Trump) taking a life-threatening journey in uncharted Amazon territory to travel down a seemingly unknowable river. Politics aside, I cannot help but be impressed by TR’s rejection of the comfortable life post-presidency. Millard portrays this side of Roosevelt well. She describes him as not a man without fear, but as a man fear cannot control.

But it is not just TR that Millard portrays with interest. Each of the men portrayed are different characters – from TR’s son Kermit to the Brazilian native protector Rondon. But what is really interesting is the role of the Amazon itself. I don’t love it when nature is personified, but in this case (having spent so much time with Rousseau) it was a nice contrast to the idea of beneficent nature. TR describes this idea as: “The very pathetic myth of ‘beneficent nature,’ could not deceive even the least wise being if he once saw for himself the iron cruelty of life in the tropics.” If the book is a battle for preservation, from the explorers, the natives, the rainforest itself has its own stake in the prize – and it provides many obstacles from candiru, snakes, malaria, insects, piranha to the dearth of anything to eat. In the Amazon, nature is the opposite of generous.

One of the things I also appreciated about the book is that Millard seems set on presenting the story as it happened. Though she does psychologize TR a bit, she does not really create historical villains out of anybody. Rondon – the Brazilian explorer —  is clearly the most humane, insofar as he has his policy of peace never shooting at native Amazons, even out of self-preservation, and later, his creation of the Indian Protection Bureau in Brazil. But in this way, he is the most tragic. His work to create telegraph lines through the Amazon rainforest resulted in the continued destruction of Amazon natives. But Millard never takes the time to attack any of these men for their “backwards” ideas and I appreciated that. I just wanted to know the story, not a confession of their historical sins.

Overall, the book is a quick and easy read. It does not have a lot about TR’s political leanings (although you should know South America and TR are not best buds), but I think it does give several interesting glimpses into his character. I’m not a Progressive, but as I said above, I can’t help but admire TR. He is so different than what we have today. It is hard to imagine us having a president today with such a wide breadth of knowledge, interests, and daring. If ever there was a man willing to be in the arena, he was it, even when that arena was the Amazon rain forest and not in civilization.

What I’m Loving Lately II

books, daily life, food, music

After what felt like a long hiatus, this week I have been hitting the dissertation hard. I have been waking up at four in the morning, so that I can start writing close to five to try to get anywhere between one and half hours (if I run in the morning) to three hours (if I don’t) of writing in before I get ready to go to work in the archives for the day. Evenings are spent reading and taking notes. I’m hoping to turn chapter four in by Monday, which also happens to be the day after my one year anniversary. We’ll see.

It has not been all work, excuse me, I mean leisure. Aside for Rousseau, there are a few things that have piqued my interest.

Watching : I haven’t really watched much tv lately, but Sunday night Bruno and I watched the first two episodes of A Very English Scandal on Amazon prime. We haven’t yet been able to watch the third and final episode, but it is well done.

Listening : My current writing music is Pixies DoolittleGouge Away might be the perfect editing song. While at work, I’ve been listening to Bad Blood : Secrets and Lies of a Silicon Valley Start-Up by John Carreyrou on audible. Holy shit. I am obsessed. I am trying to avoid going down an Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos google rabbit hole. I am only a couple hours into it, but I’m already sure it will be a five star book. Also, it is the reason why this song (not Taylor Swift!) has been in my head all day.

Reading : I’m still making may way through the Odyssey. I’m almost done. I started reading Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. As Bruno bluntly put it when he opened the book and started read a few pages, “Sarah Perry can write.” I have two history books I am working through. The first is Daniel Walker Howe’s tome What Hath God Wrought : The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 and the second, Jon Meacham’s American Lion : Andrew Jackson in the White House. I’m loving the first a little more than the second. For whatever reason, I find Meacham biography kind of tedious, although it is interesting to compare Meacham and Howe on Jackson. I was hoping for more on his political thought, particularly on nullification, and less on scandals involving “wanton” women. I’m half-way through Howe’s book and I love every page, even during the long discussions of internal improvements and the bank.

Eating : Chocolate Vega powder and cherry smoothies. I do not like fruit. I do not like cherries. But for whatever reason, when they are mixed with some protein powder, almond milk, and some ice, magic happens. Also, I restarted my sour dough bread starter this week (is it weird to name your sour dough starter? mine is named Sebastian), so definitely looking forward to eating some of that.

What are you loving lately?

xo, Ali