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« December, 2009 »
Over the Next Hill: An Ethnography of RVing Seniors in North America

This book was recommended to me by someone on MetaFilter as a good book to read for people considering living in their vehicles. It’s a really great ethnographic study of people who live in their motorvehicles or who are otherwise part of the lifestyle of RVing. This ranges from people who live in 100K motorhomes to the people in pickup trucks with poptop trailers who go out bookdocking or sepnd the winters at The Slabs. I didn’t know much about the larger culture of RVers and this book has a good combination of a lot of interesting history while also having a lot of personal interviews and anecdotes by people who are actually living this way. The authors are Canadian so there’s more of a general North American look at this lifestyle [special considerations given to Canadian health care concerns for example] but I didn’t feel that this detracted at all from the useful information available to anyone living like this. Of particular interest was the descriptions of the various membership clubs available to RVers from Escapees to the Good Sam Club. The writing in this book is readabe and interesting though it’s obviously more of an academic work than just a reference tool. If you can find a copy, pick it up.

Genius Squad

A fun YA novel a lot like the one that came bafore it. A lot of scene setting, some intrepid “what’s going on stuff” a big scary chance and a nice resolution. I’m not sure if I will like the third installment of this book since the first two follow a fairly familiar narrative structure, but I enjoy the character of Cadel Piggot and I like listening to pretty much any author who can convincingly write about technology whether it’s being used by a band of savvy teens or something else. Jinks maintains my interest and I feel that I should check out more of what she’s written.

The Whole Five Feet

This book took me months to finish. I got a copy of it from the author and then, later, another copy from his publisher. Not sure what that was about. I wrote Chris an email to tell him that I’d finished his book, seemed like the decent thing to do, and since I’m terribly lazy about getting reviews up, I’ll paste some of it here. If you’re a bookish sort, you’d like this book....

“Hey I finally finished this!

...It was slow going at times because even though your story is... sort of narrative there are a lot of big ideas that are tied up in it and it’s not an airplane read -- both owing to it being hardbound but also because it’s worth attention.I’ve been going through my own family health stuff this year [not me personally] and the story of Mimi and her role in the family and the time you spent both with her and reminiscing about her and thinking about her were a particularly poingnant part of it for me.

I’d be lying if I said I read every excerpt or if I can even remember some of the earlier chapters [I started reading it about when you sent it to me] but my favorite parts were the parts where your personal life was sort of mirrored in what you were reading. Some of the Darwin stuff and the explorer guy before him who was in California [tempting to look it all up just to feel like I have some memory left :)]. I also liked the storied of your family’s place up north since I live in rural Vermont and that idea of a family homestead is one that is sort of foreign to me.

Also the subtext of class that goes all through it -- this is just my personal sociopolitical lens -- the arts and letters aspect, the Harvard aspect the club you could stay in in the UK because of some reciprocal arrangement with whatever club you and/or your family are associated with in New York, I liked how that sort of bounced off the original ideas ofhaving books that were for everyone... and how it seems in a lot of ways maybe that isn’t how they turned out...”

The Shaker Image

There’s something about the Shakers that inspires almost an insta-nostalgia for me, some sort of road not taken. I grew up near Harvard MA, the site of one of the Shaker communities and remember learning about them when I was little. I’m not much into organized religion but I love their furniture and believe, sort of like they did, that there is attainable perfection in design. This book is full of photos of Shaker communities with stories about the people in them. The Shakers used to pretty much keeps themselves entirely separate from “the World” and at some point they decided to shift this approach somewhat. These photos are in some sense promotional materials and in some other sense sort of a glimpse into a world most of us know very little about. The research that has gone into this volume, from Pearson and his two co-authors, is impressive.

The Secret of Invisibility

I’ve been enjoying John Ralston’s comics online for years and was very pleased to see that he had come out with a young adult novel. I read this book back to front in a few days. It’s the story of an awkward boy who moves to a new town where he doesn’t know anybody and encounters a secret.... He also spends a lot of time at the library and meets a kid in town who enjoys doing the same things. The story rings true and is reminiscent of one of my favorite stories of all time Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. There are neat little naming jokes and complementary illustrations throughout. It’s a good read, feels good in your hands and looks great.