Friday, September 17, 2004

On my nightstand

In the past, I preferred reading one book at a time. I found reading several books at once to be distracting. But now my attention span, so used to being fractured these days, seems better able to handle disjointed reading.

I recently read Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. This was a book group selection, so I was able to articulate at length about the book. I don't think I've the stamina to do it again here, but I recommend it. Highly. The subtitle, Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, doesn't even begin to cover the complete chaos and heartbreak that some poor Americans experience every day. I'm glad to have read the book; it's been a long time since a book disturbed and haunted me this much. In fact, I don't recall feeling this way about a book since reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down several years ago. Both books concern cultures with which I had been completely unfamiliar (Hmong immigrants and a Hispanic community in the South Bronx), and both books forced me to struggle against judging the characters according to my white middle-class value system.

On the in-progress side of my nightstand are two books: Einstein Never Used Flashcards and Crimson Petal and the White. The former is a thoroughly eye-opening debunking of the myth that overscheduling and force-feeding educational activities to toddlers and preschoolers will make them more successful later on. I haven't gotten too far into the latter book to even be able to encapsulate the plot, but it's Victorian, cheeky, and so far very entertaining.