Two really fun books about looking at things in a slightly different way.
Let’s start with Steal Like and Artist. This is a fun book about how to use art and the world around you to inspire your creative side. The premise is that all art comes from other art. We’re not talking plagiarism here, but rather inspiration. Learn about your favorite people, write fan letters (maybe during Lunch Letters?), surround yourself with art, create what you like, share with people. In essence, just do it! It’s a quick book with a lot of interesting and practical ideas.
Think Like a Freak is an interesting look at economics and what economics actually encompasses. The authors previously wrote a book called Freakonomics, and host a podcast by the same name (one of my favorites, you should totally listen sometime) . This is a book that encourages you to embrace the phrase, “I don’t know” and to quit, because sometimes to succeed, you need to quit. It’s an engaging look at how to think differently and why that can be a good thing for the world around us.
Both of these books are on the Outstanding Books for the College Bound list. Just sayin’.
Spring break is creeping up on us, so I know many of you are working on putting your spring break reading lists together. Today I have two books about everyone’s favorite Disney dog and former planet. (Although, just to be clear, the planet is named for the Roman god of the Underworld and not the Disney dog.)
Anyway, when I was growing up we memorized the order of the planets with, “My very earnest mother just sent us nine pickles.” As of 2005, the pickles were gone and mother sent nine…I don’t know what. Pluto was official demoted to “dwarf planet” and our solar system was reduced to just 8 planets. These two books tell the story of Pluto’s fall from the big leagues.
Some people credit (blame?) American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist and pop icon Neil DeGrasse Tyson for Pluto’s demise. In his book The Pluto Files (also available on mp3 disc) he talks about a decision they made at the museum to group the planets together by type, which led to Pluto’s isolation and to a remark from a little kid, overheard by a New York Times reporter that became a headline. The book explores why people, particularly Americans, were so upset with Pluto’s change in status. Bonus for the book…he includes pictures of the hate mail he got from 2nd graders.
In How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, astronomer Mike Brown recounts his discovery of a 10th planet, Eris, which was just a bit bigger than Pluto. However, his discovery started the scientific debate that led to Pluto’s reclassification and the category of “dwarf planet.” I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet (and if no one checks it out, it may be on my spring break reading list), but the blurb on the back also promises hate mail from school children!
Brown’s book is also included on the 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.
April is a lot of things. As Mrs. Trusty pointed out yesterday, it’s OT Month (watch out for the Snapple machine). It’s also Poetry Month. So for today’s new book, I thought I’d highlight a book in verse.
Frank X Walker’s Turn Me Loose tells the story of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. Evers grew up in Mississippi and served in the Army in World War II. When he returned after the war, he went to college, got married, found a job, and settled into the Civil Rights movement. He worked to break down the Jim Crow laws and even applied to the segregated University of Mississippi Law School as a test case for the NAACP. As he became more active and helped investigate the deaths of people like Emmet Till, he became an target for white supremacists. In June of 1963, Evers was assassinated in his driveway by Bryon De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizen’s Council.
Walker’s collection of poetry tells the story of Evers by telling the story of the people around him. Short poems paint a picture of life in Mississippi from both sides of the Civil Rights movement. While Evers himself is not a voice in the book, you hear about the atmosphere and the tragedy through the characters of De La Beckwith and his family and through Evers’s family, specifically his wife and brother.
I’ll be honest, while this book is short and can be read quickly, it is not an easy read. The ideas expressed by the De La Beckwiths can be disturbing and the experiences related by the Everses are heartbreaking. But it’s a good book to read. I’ve done a lot of reading up on Medgar Evers since I read this book…I knew his name, but not much about him when I started it. He has a fascinating story. For a quick primer on his life, check out (yep, I’m going to say it) the Wikipedia article on him (remember, I’ve always said Wikipedia is a good jumping off point).
Interesting “current events” fact I found in that article. There used to be a TV show on called In the Heat of the Night. It was a cop show, set in Mississippi, that often dealt with racial issues since it focused on two cops, one white, one Black. There was one episode that seems to reference Evers’s murder. The Bryon De La Beckwith character is played by James Best, who is perhaps best known for playing Sheriff Roscoe on The Dukes of Hazard, and who just passed away yesterday.