Friday, August 9, 2013

The August Bookshelf...

We've added a few new books to the "currently reading" bookshelf!
Note: This doesn't absolutely guarantee that we finished those from July, but implies that we've either 1) moved on, 2) been forced to return the book to the library after maxing out on renewals, 3) or the book is still on the bookshelf. While starting a book is always admirable, finishing books, especially non-fiction, is over-rated.

Lincoln at Peoria, Lewis E. Lehrman
While not exactly a page-turner, Lehrman provides fascinating summary of Lincoln's political life and development leading up to what he calls one of the most important and less appreciated speeches of Lincoln's life. I haven't gotten to the actual speech,  it has been slow going, but the ways in which debate over the Kansas-Nebraska Act broke up the Whig Party for good while severely straining the Democratic Party is interesting.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandburg
I picked up this book from the library for the same reason that my boss at work did: to join in on what seems to be an important conversation. This aspect of reading, the national conversation kind of reading, is something I overlooked in the past.
There's a second reason I wanted to read at least parts of this book: I've increasingly felt a lack of confidence and aggressiveness in my job and career. From what I had heard of Sandberg's book, her admonition to "lean in," seemed to be exactly what I needed (and it has been helpful). My wife would actually say that I allow people to "walk all over me."
Although I haven't reached the literal end of the book, Sandberg seems to be advocating exactly what Tim Keller describes in his book Counterfeit Gods (on the July Bookshelf). Exchanging typical female idolatries for typical male ones doesn't bring freedom and fulfillment, just more heartache. Yes, chauvinistic males and unfair work-place prejudices still persist. It's worth continuing to fight for a more fair, just, and loving world- credit Sandberg for being a passionate and genuine voice in that regard. Just don't expect that it is ever going to really fulfill you as a women or a man.
Laura has also been reading the book, and it has been enjoyable sharing our thoughts. She has a love-hate relationship with Sandberg's ideas (and the woman herself?) In general, she feels like Sandberg denigrates women for not adapting more male-centric ideals, which seem to be in Sandberg's eyes inherently better. Also, she feels that by placing so much emphasis on the way women are shaped by society Sandberg robs women of agency. She enjoyed the content in "Don't Leave Before You Leave" (Chapter 7) and felt that it was very important for women to hear. Since she left her teaching job to work full time at home caring for our 2 1/2 year old and infant twins, she knows first hand the importance of leaving on a good footing. With hard work and zest that defied her pregnancy with the twins, she created more opportunities for herself in leaving, not less.


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
It's hard to know what to say at this point. After hearing about this cult-classic over and over, I decided it was time to read it myself. It is certainly unlike most of anything I've read before, but so far, I'm under-whelmed. My expectations were high, and were then elevated by Pirsig's own immodesty (or honesty?) in the introduction. He writes: "I suppose every writer dreams of the kinds of success Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  has had...rave reviews, millions of copies sold in twenty-seven languages, a description in the press as 'the most widely read philosophy book, ever.'...Now the dreams are a reality and I don't have to worry about that anymore."
Of course every writer dreams of success! But your not supposed to really mention it, or at least not without a disclaimer and a thank you to your mother-in-law. All that Pirsig can muster up in this case is admission of two "failures" that are really somewhat tongue-in-cheek. That being said, I'm still holding out to be blown away by the second half of the book. If so highly praised, there must be something exceptional, right?

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful to have time to read even though brief! I am reading Wendell Berry, "A Place on Earth" takes discipline for me but is well worth the feeling of being securely planted in time and place, along with his book of poems "Sabbath" enjoyment of nature longed for, in anticipation of reading the forthcoming book of poetry by Asa D. Also "The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert" by former Women's Studies' professor, Rosaria Butterfield- do you remember the RPNA church we visited in Syracuse?- conversion is all of grace, but there is so much for the church to "be" in the process. Last but not least, I just finished "Divergent" by Veronica Roth, Northwestern and RUF alum! The most notable think about the book is that Roth already has a film contract and Aijalon has hung out with her. :)