The plot thickens…

Aspergirls: empowering females with Asperger’s Syndrome by Rudy Simone

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I reckon it might be more useful for adult women diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, although it is written for parents of Aspergirls as well. The thing is that parents of younger Aspergirls are more likely to already know a lot about Asperger’s Syndrome–enough to know that there’s not nearly enough AS literature on girls and enough to know that this book doesn’t offer much that is new or that they haven’t figured out from living with their own child. It has some value, of course. That it’s written specifically for and about females with AS is a big deal in itself. It’s not an academic and isn’t meant to be. It contains a lot of personal anecdotes from a lot of young women and adult women with AS and it contains practical advise for girls and women with AS and their parents. Its main purpose is to be reassuring, I guess, and to encourage people about the future. I will probably have Princess Zurg read it at some point.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

This is another book I read for a book club. It is the first Wallace Stegner I have ever read. I know! Well, it has to start sometime. It took me a while to get into it. I enjoyed the writing, and I enjoyed the interaction of the characters, but until I got about halfway in I kept thinking, “Sure, but the point is…?” But after that I didn’t really care what the point was, I just wanted to see what was going to happen to these characters. And find out I did, but I won’t tell you. That would miss the point. Ha ha. The book is about these two married couples and their friendships, couple to couple and husband to husband and wife to wife, and it is about marriage itself. It’s a surprisingly compelling book. It seems to end abruptly. It reminded me of Joyce Carol Oates’ Wonderland, which isn’t anything remotely like this book but it also ended abruptly and made me think, “What? That’s it?” and then after a few minutes of contemplation, I realized, “Yes, that is it, exactly.” Yes, it’s one of those books. (You know, people sometimes tell me that my stories end abruptly and seem unfinished, but I bet no one ever told that to Wallace Stegner.)

Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World by Jay Nordlinger

Jay Nordlinger writes a column for National Review, and I confess that I am an enormous fan of his writing and if he wrote a commentary on the phone book, I would be there (trying to get it for cheap on the Kindle). Disclaimer aside, I still think this is a terribly interesting book, regardless of your politics (unless you’re a huge Jimmy Carter fan, in which case you’ll probably have to skim the paragraphs in which he appears–if you’re only a moderate fan, you can probably handle it). Jay Nordlinger is certainly not an impartial judge, and he doesn’t try to hide his opinions by any stretch, but it’s not like if Glenn Beck wrote a history of the Nobel Peace Prize. Nordlinger has more regard for the Nobel Peace Prize than most conservatives do; he gives credit where it’s due, and he isn’t a flame-thrower (even if he is a partisan). All of the laureates are impressive people, and some of them did some very brave, wonderful things and also did some stuff that wasn’t so great. People are complex. Then there’s Yasser Arafat. (That’s the problem: there will always be Yasser Arafat.)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Another book I read for a book club–janeannechovy’s book club. Everyone I know who has read this book has loved it. I’m going to confess right now: I did not love it. I liked it, but I did not love it. And I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing why I did not love it, for it seems like I ought to have loved it and I find it difficult to articulate why I didn’t. So Oscar is an overweight Dominican sci-fi/fantasy geek who is desperate to find love, but love is elusive–because he is an overweight geek or because his family is cursed? Woven into the plot are the back stories of his sister and his mother and grandfather and the some history of the Dominican Republican under the Trujillo regime. There are a lot of footnotes about Trujillo and crap. It was interesting to learn some of the history because I knew next to nothing about the DR prior to this. The characters’ stories interested me. But I didn’t love the book, and I’m still not sure why. I read other reviews of it on Goodreads, and the people who were less enthusiastic about it were less enthusiastic for different reasons than I. I didn’t mind all the footnotes. I didn’t feel like they broke up the story, which was already non-linear. (Okay, maybe the ones that went on for a page and half, a little, but most of them were fine.) I didn’t mind the non-linear narrative. I didn’t mind that there was a lot of Spanish in there, even though I don’t speak Spanish. I felt like I got the gist of it from the context. I guess my problem was that I was most interested in and emotionally invested in Oscar, and yet I felt like he was the character I got to know the least. There was some distance between us that was never bridged. Anyway, whatever. Diaz is a very good writer. I am certainly going to try his collection of short stories, Drown, and see if I love it better.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

I picked up this book because I heard an interview with the author on the radio, and I thought it would be interesting. And actually, I was fascinated. I read it very quickly. Haidt is a social psychologist and one of the brains behind the site, which you may have visited already. I’d visited it a couple different times but didn’t make the connection between it and Haidt until he mentioned it in this book (the site, not my visits). Anyway, his book is three parts: the first is about moral intuition, the instantaneous perceptions we have that aren’t based in reason but seem (to us) self-evident; the second is about moral evolution–his argument being that we are 90% chimp and 10% bee and it is our hive-mentality that allowed us to evolve into moral creatures; the third is about why the insights of both liberals and conservatives are necessary. Maybe my enthusiasm for this book is self-serving because as a liberal-turned-conservative I feel like I have both perspectives and that’s what makes me so much smarter than most people. I’m just kidding. (A little bit.) Anyway, I’m not inclined to speak in terms of evolution–I am famously indifferent to the subject–but Haidt (who is a secular liberal, in case you’re wondering) explains morality and political alignment in a way I would not have thought of myself but makes a lot of sense to me. It makes me curious what other people think of this book.

To be continued…