Books on My Bookshelf

. . . Or more precisely, books on the table, in my book bag, in the car, in my hands . . . they seem to multiply when I'm not looking at the most alarming rate. With graduate school looming, I have been industriously attempting to reduce the number of books on my "to read" list--an entirely futile and entirely pleasurable activity. Much to the despair of my family (who bear the brunt of my post-literary rantings), a disproportionate number of books in my reading list have been political in nature. In rapid succession over the last six weeks, my beside table has accommodated:
  • Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body. In case anyone had doubts, Courtney M. Martin reminds us that the personal is profoundly political, as she describes the embodied lives of young women of my generation and connects the cultural obsession with women's body management to the stalled feminist revolution. I picked up this book skeptical that anything new could be said about disordered eating, and came away humbled.
  • Women aren't the only ones hurt by the lack of gender equity, as evidenced in The Package Deal: Marriage, Work and Fatherhood in Men's Lives, by sociologist Nicholas W. Townsend. While not explicitly political in his analysis, Townsend's interviews with men about their family lives lead him to a firmly feminist conclusion that a revolution in the gendered nature of family life and parenting is urgently needed.
  • After reading a glowing review of Melody Rose's book on abortion law, Safe, Legal, and Unavailable?, in The American Prospect I knew I had to own a copy--and I wasn't wrong. Accessible, comprehensive, and terrifying, Rose gives us a concise history of abortion law and politics and provides and invaluable tool for placing current news in a broader context.
  • Al Gore's latest contribution to politics, An Assault on Reason, was a worthwhile read, even if it started to feel repetitive (at least to someone who doesn't need to be convinced that the Bush administration is morally bankrupt). As evidenced by the subtitle, he has not learned how to turn his complex thoughts into media sound bites--and I love him for it!
  • The dense but engrossing Reluctant Capitalists, by Laura Miller, tells the story of 20th century book selling and the tension between books-as-sacred-cultural-objects and books-as-product (distasteful word). I read it once, and plan to read it again with pencil in hand.
  • Finally, I just closed the covers of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead, which confirmed me in my determination (if/when I get married) to resist as much as possible any concession to the wedding industry's faux traditionalism (wedding rings, white dresses, lavish honeymoons, wedding photography). The contrarian in me basically wants to spend less than $0.00 on the event . . . which I guess is probably an extreme reaction. . .
Given this reading list, Mom was understandably relieved the other day when I came home from the library and announced that I had checked out a stack of mysteries (along with a book on human rights, the ethics of genetic manipulation, and a literary novel about children growing up on a hippie commune in the 1970s). So, this last week, I have found myself wholeheartedly enjoying the escapism of Tasha Alexander's historical mysteries featuring the young widow Lady Emily Ashton: And Only to Deceive, and A Poisoned Season. Who could possibly resist an intrepid bluestocking who enjoys ancient Greek, 19th century potboilers, port, and solving the occasional murder? (Not me).

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