Sunday, July 04, 2010


55. Brasyl by Ian McDonald
Meh. I felt like all the action happened at the end of this book. And also, if the action had been more throughout I would have liked it better. I am not really impressed by books/movies, etc. with the premise "reality is not real."


52. The Group by Mary McCarthy
This is the story of a group of college friends from Vassar in the 1930s. I mostly enjoyed it for the glimpses of life as an educated young woman back then, but I found it hard to get really close to the characters. A good read for the historical value, but not completely engrossing.

53. The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick
The title says it all! The book starts out as a biography, and then moves on to Obama's political career and progress from state Senator to US Senator to president. I haven't read Dreams of My Father, so I not seen the biography stuff put all together before and I really enjoyed that part. I actually really liked seeing the whole story laid out. I mean, I lived through the election, I remember Obama's speech at the 2004 convention, but it was interesting to take a step back and see how it all fit together. This book only got three out of five stars because it was long, and some parts dragged a little, but other parts were page turners even though I knew how it would all end up. If you are at all interested in politics or knowing more about how Obama came to be who he is and fit this particular time I recommend this book.

54. Garnethill by Denise Mina
This is the second book of Mina's I have read and I really enjoyed both. I liked this one better than the other. It is a good mystery/thriller but also very well written and with a larger message about the treatment of people with mental illness in society. If you like mysteries but also more literary fiction, I recommend this book. As a bonus it is set in Scotland. I find I prefer mysteries that take place anywhere in Great Britain over those in the US.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


50 and 51. The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
These are 2nd and 3rd books in a series that began with Life As We Knew It, which I loved. In these books a meteor crashes into the moon, pushing it off course and causing various disasters on earth. You all should know by now that I love a good apocalypse. But, I did not love these last two books. In The Dead and the Gone we go through the same time period as the first book, but in New York City. I did like a view of the end of the world from a big city stand point, but the characters were not as engaging. Also, the first book was written in a diary format which really drew the reader in and the second book was in 3rd person. The third book, though, was the worst. The characters from the first two books are brought together in a kind of contrived way and end up having to deal with things NOT going back to normal. In the third, I thought the characters were not as well fleshed out and there were many events that did not fit in with how I understood the characters so far. I would recommend reading the first book and skipping the second two.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Free like a monkey!

My last post on zoos was partially inspired by this article in the Chicago Sun-Times: The Brookfield Zoo has let some golden lion tamarins (GLTs) out to forage in a wooded area next to the zoo. This is similar to a set-up at the National Zoo. There, tamarins live out in a wooded area of the zoo to learn to forage in a "wild" situation as part of their pre-release training.

In my earlier post I said I was skeptical of reintroduction programs, and I am, but one that comes closes to appearing like a success to me is that of the GLTs. Michelle sums the program up well here, and also introduces Devra Kleiman, a pioneer in this work, who sadly died earlier this year.

I don't know if reintroduction is going to save GLTs, but I haven't made it to the Brookfield Zoo yet and after reading this article I am excited to finally get there and see if I can spot the free-ranging ones.

What I think of zoos

A while ago, when I was in crazy dissertating/teaching land and thus neglecting the poor little blog, Michelle had some great posts about zoos and their goals. She asked me what I thought of this, and I wanted to take time to think of an answer and do some more reading before writing a well-crafted and thought out post.

I am never going to find that time. So here is my off the cuff answer: I am skeptical of the ability of zoos to meet their goals of educating visitors to care about conservation of wild animals and to genetically maintain populations for later reintroduction. For the education part, I have a suspicion that sometimes zoos teach people animals belong in captivity for the visitors' enjoyment. I suspect this due to the number of people I have seen at zoos demanding the attention of an animal, or complaining when the animals are not in good view. I also suspect this after being in various national parks with people viewing wild animals, and hearing the people complain that the animals are too far away or not easy to see. I was at one park and heard a woman demand her money back because she did not see a monkey. She did not seem to understand that the animals were wild, and not on display for her enjoyment. So, that is a concern of mine regarding zoos.

As for the preservation of species on the chance they can be reintroduced, I am again skeptical. I am not sure what benefit animals of a species gain by being maintained in captivity when there is no habitat for them to go back to. Also, I have not yet been convinced of the success of any reintroduction program. Many times the animals are reintroduced into a habitat that still has the same problems that led to the endangerment of the animals in the first place.

So there you are. I am skeptical. But I understand that all my evidence is personal and anecdotal, and I would like to see more research into reintroduction programs (I know of some mom and pop operations that reintroduce ex-pets on a small scale, but do not follow up) and into how zoo visits affect people's views of animals and conservation. This research could definitely help convince me one way or the other, and also help us decide where to best put our resources for conservation and preservation of species.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


48. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
A story of various women and race relations in early 1960s Mississippi. I found the story and characters compelling; both the privileged white women, the white women aware of the injustice of their privilege and the black hired help. All were pretty much treated with respect and interest by the author. After I got into the book awhile I could not put it down, although at the end I felt the author missed the mark a little in some way, and could have gone deeper or told us something more radical. Still, a very good book worth reading.

49. Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
I love a lot of Krakauer's writing. This seems to be a very thoroughly researched book about Pat Tillman, the NFL player who gave up a $$$ contract to join the military. In the end, he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan and there was a big cover up about it. This book is very disturbing when it talks about the extent of the cover up, and also the extent of friendly fire deaths in the military and the way in which soldiers are sent into dangerous situations that could be avoided. You can read this if you want to be angry and disturbed about failures of the command structure of the military, and the extent that some will go to to keep people supporting the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Aside from the indignation this inspired, I liked learning about Tillman, about the life of a pro-athlete and about the life of a soldier, all of which I knew nothing about before.