Sunday, November 2, 2014

What I'm Reading Right Now

I'm spending a lot of time reading on the beach these days. Thanks to Kindle, I can read several books at a time. Here's what I'm reading right now:

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius

My daughter, Hannah, recommended this book to me on Thursday. I'm now almost halfway through it. It is the remarkable story of a mother's determination to heed what she intuitively felt needed to be done to help her autistic toddler achieve his potential. What I've read so far is not only an amazing story, but a story that provides wisdom, insight and courage to parents, whether or not their children are autistic. Favorite quotes so far:

"I learned that *everyone* has an intrinsic talent, a contribution to make, even if it comes in an unexpected form. And I began to believe that each person's potential to achieve great things depends on tapping into that talent as a child."

"I had believed for years that any child will out perform your expectations [in various skills, academics, etc.] if you can find a way to feed his or her passion."

The book caused me to ponder how I helped raise my older children and given me much food for thought on helping my younger children - ages 8-15 - find their intrinsic talent, that which they are most naturally passionate about, and pursue that passion. I will finish the book before we head home next week.

Homosexuality and Civilization

I've been reading this book, by Louis Compton, for several weeks and am now 39% of the way through it. Though the author is an academic, I have found it to be very readable and quite fascinating. It begins at the beginning of recorded history and works its way up through the centuries, through Judea, Bronze Age Mediterranean civilizations, Ancient Greece and Rome, the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance, where I now am, reading about homosexuality in Florence during the 1400's.

Along the way, I have learned how the writings of the early Israelites impacted early Christian fathers, then the jurisprudence of Rome, then Medieval Europe. How forgeries, misunderstandings, mistranslations, superstitious fear and brutality came to effect western Civilization's views on homosexuality for 2000 years. It makes for a very insightful, fascinating and sobering story. Did you know, for example, that Julius Caesar was the butt of many jokes as a result of a same-sex affair he had early in his career? Or that the practice generically known as "pederasty" in the Greek world existed for 1000 years until the burgeoning power of the Christian church finally succeeded in crushing it?

The David Suzuki Reader 

I knew of David Suzuki from my years in Vancouver, B.C., primarily from the CBC show, "The Nature of Things," which he hosted. I was reminded of this when we recently went to visit Mark's brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Marie, in Colorado. One night, we were sitting around talking about books, and Tim suggested the Mark read Suzuki's book, Tree: A Life Story, which is a "biography" of a single Douglas fir. Mark downloaded that book, but it is still a few books down in his queue.

I am not very far into the Reader, but I like that it is a collection of  relatively short essays about the environment, about sustainability, about climate change and about Suzuki's life story. Reading the essays has reminded me of when I lived in Vancouver and was attending law school at the University of British Columbia. Those were the days Gro Harlem Bruntland, the prime minister of Norway and chair of the United Nations' World Commission on Environment and Development, was advocating sustainable development. The Commission issued its report in 1987 - the year I commenced law school - entitled "Our Common Future," which I recall reading. Those were the days of "Think Globally. Act Locally." It was the time in my life when I was most engaged in what was going on in the environment.

Four Seasons in Rome

I read Anthony Doerr's book, All the Light We Cannot See, while we were in Europe. Although there was much about that book I liked, it was, in my view, dark and unredemptive. I decided to pick up Four Seasons in Rome because I had just been in Rome and hope to go back some day. It is a memoir of a year he and his wife and newborn twin sons spent in Rome in 2004-2005. This book is on my "slow read" booklist. I typically read a few pages at a time, then move on to something else. While I am not captivated by it, I am only halfway through. Perhaps it will get better.

Greece: A Short History of  Long Story

I came aware from our Greek cruise with a desire to learn more about the history of Greece - buy gently. I long, long ago realized that I am what I could call a "cyclic learner." I learn a little bit about something, then a bit more, then a bit more - in cycles. Perhaps many if not most people learn that way. I don't know. But when I searched about for a short, approachable yet serious history of Greece, I landed here.

I'm about 20% of the way through this book by Carol Thomas and have already learned quite a bit, putting pieces of information together that I learned while in Greece. This is another one of those books, however, that is not a page turner and which I have to absorb slowly.

The HeartMath Solution

This is another book that was recommended to us by Mark's brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Marie. I'm sure I'll blog more about this in the future. For now, let me say that I am finding it fascinating and enlightening. I'm only 13% into the book, but I think it's fair to say that the basic premise of the book is that science is proving that the heart has an intelligence, a brain, of its own apart from the mind's brain. And all sorts of things flow from that.

The Novels of Alexander the Great, by Mary Renault

Mary Renault was both a product of her times and in advance of her times. A lesbian, she wrote ground-breaking novels that had gay themes, primarily from the Classical period of ancient Greece. She was English, but spent the last few decades of her life in South Africa with her partner. When reading the first novel of her's that I've read, i.e, The Last of the Wine, I realized that I needed to learn a lot more about ancient Classical Greece in order to appreciate what I was reading. Renault was dealing with pederastic themes within the context of historical Greece during the Peloponnesian war. Thus, that first book was somewhat challenging. I kept waiting for the climax of the love between Alexis and Lysis ... but I came to realize two things: Renault was writing in the 50s' and 60's, and she was writing about a form of love that is foreign to 20th and 21st-century readers - even gay readers.

Now, I'm reading her trilogy about Alexander the Great. I still wish I knew more about Greek history; thus my reading of Greece: A Short History of a Long Story. But the story is fascinating. Alexander. His mother, Olympias. His father, Philip. Of course, Alexander was gay, or at least bisexual. Thus, I know the story is to be developed. Where I'm at in my reading, he's about eight.

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