Two thumbs up for How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others by T. M. Luhrmann. Anthropology.
It’s really nice to be astonished by something different. This book is—stay with me here—an anthropologist’s analysis of the cross-cultural human ability to make the supernatural or spiritual feel present in our lives by using certain practices (for example: ritual, prayer, meditation, spiritual reading); and about how this is an actual skill, which some people struggle with, and some people do quite naturally, and which can be improved with practice.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization by Edward Slingerland. Anthropology.
Some while ago I read a very interesting article in the Atlantic about, basically, why human beings – as a species – go to so much trouble to get drunk (or high), considering how very bad for us it is.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London by Lauren Elkin. Sociology/Memoir.
A mishmash that works surprisingly well together: the history of women who walk in cities (flaneuses, to match the male term flaneurs); biography of some female writers like Jean Rhys, George Sand, and Martha Gellhorn; academic discussions on the social meaning of the suburb; the history of Paris; the plot of an art film; fragments of memoir from the author, which serve to keep it from being too academic.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman. Travel.
I picked this up as research for a story and within a few pages realized it was not what I needed. But by that time, I’d been hooked by Erdman’s writing. There are so many ways that a white woman’s memoir of her Peace Corps work in an African village could have been irritating or obnoxious.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.
Curse you, Amazon, for knowing my desires before I do. I was so good, wasn’t I, when you recommended this to me, and I ordered it from the library? You just knew that after I read it I would come straight back to your electronic embrace and order a copy for myself, because oh did I need a copy for myself.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova. History/food.
This is one of those books to which you should apply a simple test: does the topic sound at all intriguing? If it does, you will like this book. The world history of butter is a fascinating thing, and Khosrova does all aspects of it justice—from dairying itself, to the science behind it, to the changing interactions of gender and butter production throughout the ages, to the sordid and weird evolution of margarine.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Mongolia; Far North; Himalaya; Sahara by Jan Reynolds. Children’s nonfiction.
Really lovely photography books from the Vanishing Cultures series.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel. Anthropology.
While slightly out-of-date now (it’s funny how the mid-90’s looks like the mid-90’s the world round), this book features portraits of statistically average families in 30 diverse countries surrounded by all of their material possessions. This ranges from – in India – blankets, pots and pans, a set of wrestling weights, a broken bicycle, a few religious pictures, and absolutely nothing else, to – in Kuwait – so much that it can be viewed only from the air, including a 45-foot-long sofa, four cars, and two servants.… >> Read more