Month: February 2013

What are you reading right now? (And, is it good? Would you recommend it? How did you choose it?) – BTT

Usually, I am only reading one book or between books (I tend to read books in a couple of big bursts), but right now, I’ve got two on the go:

Hark A Vagrant by Kate Beaton – A collection of comics from eponymous web comic. I love this and have followed the blog for a few years. I’ll gush about it in the review, but basically, Beaton and I have very similar interests. I’d recommend it.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau – I’ve only read a few pages of this on the Kindle. It was the book chosen by the Classics Spin. It seems to be essential classical reading.

What are you reading this week?

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

First off, I am not a parent, but I am a francophile and I am interested in culture and psychology as well. I quite enjoyed this book as it outlines a few key and interesting things about about French parenting such as (but not limited to):

  • setting boundaries
  • babies sleeping through the night in a few weeks
  • treating children with respect and trust
  • baking weekly with children
  • the idea that being a mother is not an absolute and one is encouraged to have a life separate from one’s children; the woman and the mom are fused rather than the mom is the only thing.
  • achieving balance and not feelingly guilt
  • encouraging children to be children and letting them be themselves.
  • marriage after kids
  • encouraging children to eat vegetables and not be picky eaters

The book also reminded me to read Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Emile at some point. Nothing ever surprises me about the French anymore though. A few things addressed in this book such as the creche and the importance of “Bonjour” was addressed in another insightful book on France that I own Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong.

The book did make me laugh though and make me really think about the role of women in their child’s lives because it addresses authority, guilt, and being a person aside from being a mother. I think it is really important to cultivate a life and identity as a woman that is not just about being a mother. The author is correct in that it is not easy and the French state does make it easier.

Overall, I agree with a lot of the things the author observed and while I am not French, certain tenets of their parenting style were familiar in my own Chinese upbringing: the lack of effusive praise, the emphasis on the woman at work, encouraging kids not to be picky eaters, and having the child be their own person. I was not able to take music lessons or sports growing up, but I had books and an active imagination so this relied heavily one me as a child on self-discovery.

It would be excessive to use this book as a guide or bible to parent children. I did not agree with everything namely the lack violence between children bit and the French view of breast feeding. Though, I was mostly raised on formula so it’s not like it ill equips humans for life.

I do think the book is interesting from a psychological perspective and addresses a lot of issues that many Westerners and anglophone parents have with their children: entitlement, childhood obesity, attachment issues, and guilt. The book also emphasizes the relationships they have with their spouses and partners separate than that of the children. It was an engaging read, but not an ostentatious parenting book. I recommend it to francophiles and people interested in parenting from different cultures.

Read February 23rd to 24th 2013.

Sunday Salon


This past week, I posted my reviews of Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and Season 1 and Here’s looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos.

I did work 50 hours this week so I really did not do much in the way of hobbies though I did finish knitting a pair of socks. I even found time to play the fiddle again in awhile. I’ve had to cut music out entirely.

I did start reading Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, a book about French parenting, yesterday. I’ll probably finish it today after I’ve gone out to be social and run some errands. Having only one day off is a bit inconvenient, but I always want to be grateful since it could be a lot worse.

In terms of reading, I plan on reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden for The Classics Club. This was one of two books on my classics spin that I did not physically own but had on Kindle. It does remind me to read more for the challenge from my own shelves though.

Forgot to mention the other week that I bought two more cookbooks. It has become major addiction for me as long as yarn and lip products. I’m now at my limit since I’ve taken space on a whole shelf for them; I really have two shelves. I’ve stopped myself from buying them for now. I do love their photos, the recipes, the food writing, and that lovely new book smell. Mmmm.

Have you bought any new books lately?

How often do you visit a library? Do you go to borrow books? Do research? Check out the multi-media center? Hang out with the friendly and knowledgeable staff? Are you there out of love or out of need? – BTT

Out of love! I go to the library once a week. It is definitely part of my weekly routine and has been for about the last decade. The only time I didn’t really go often or regularly was in graduate school, and even then I went to the school library every couple of weeks during non-exam time. I lived in a place with no or far from a library and even there, I found a library. I mostly go to borrow books. With internet catalogues, I can reserve most of the books I want in advance and there is less shelf browsing.

I love the library! I use to spend my summers there as a kid and hang out for hours in the children’s section, looking for books. No one really bothered me. I could just escape into the world of books. I still do. I have been extremely lucky in the sense that my hometown has a wonderful library system which makes it one of the best reasons to live here.

Here's looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos

Another math book! Now, I’m averaging about one or two a year. That’s a pretty good number to me considering I am so bad at math. I half force myself to read these books. I do want to know more about math, but I do think a lot of the stuff in these books goes over my head or I forget them very easily. I had this book first time months ago and renewed it several times. I am very bad at math and atypical of many East Asians that way. I failed math in high class and almost failed in nearly every year before that from age 8 to when I stopped in high school. It was a real bane to my existence. I do admire people in the maths and sciences. A lot of my friends are in science, but I do not any math people. Still, I read these books in an attempt to learn more about math and overcome the fear of it. I do not think it improves my knowledge of it, but it is somewhat interesting.

What is interesting is that this math book and the last one I read The Number Mysteries by Marcus du Sautoy were both written by Britons. I am wondering if this is because the British are more open to buying a mainstream math book.

Bellos, unlike du Sautoy, is not really a mathematician. While he has studied maths in university, Bellos is primarily a journalist and writes as one. This means that I found this book easier to understand than the other one. The books are similar though and discuss various topis in math in our daily lives, but this one has some interesting things such as:

  1. A dyscalculic which is dylexia but for numbers and math
  2. In Medieval Lincolnshire, England, shepherds called Five a “pimp”, Ten is a “dik” and Fifteeen is “Bumfit”.
  3. A base of 12 (Dozenal) can be more useful than a base of 10 (Decimal). This makes me think I should count stitches in dozen from here on out.
  4. Numerology. Numbers as qualities. This is something I have had an interest in as well.
  5. Vedic mathemetics.
  6. The basis of zero and how in Indian philosophy, it is the basis of everything.
  7. 6 is a ‘perfect’ number because it is the sum of all its factors 1,2, and 3.
  8. The prevelance of Fibonnaci numbers in nature
  9. Math and the fiber arts
  10. The Gambler’s Fallacy that people think that things are due to happen because the happened in awhile

I also liked Bellos descriptions of all the people he meets and interviews. The way he describes their faces and hair is rather nice and more observational than some other non-fiction books.

All in all, a nice little read for those interested in math but who don’t know everything about it. I recommend it as a primary for those people who use to like math back in school but have not touched it in awhile. It makes you appreciate many math topics and the history of the subject.

Read February 14-17th 2013.

A review of Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and the first season (2011) of the HBO show.

Continue reading →

Sunday Salon

Hello everyone!

This week, I posted my list for The Classics Spin (check back tomorrow to see which book I will read for it), reviews of Sandman: Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman and and P. Craig Russell, The Best American Travel Writing 2012 Ed. by William T. Vollman, and . Also, BTT was on Why I love to read.

I read and finished Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin as well as the first season of the show. That review will be up tomorrow. I also read Stephen Colbert’s I am a Pole (And So Can you!) which I won’t write a proper review for, but it was amusing. I’m currently reading Here’s Looking at Euclid which I hope to finish later today after I go out this morning. It’s taken me two days to get halfway through the book because it a book about math after all.

Tomorrow, I am returning to full time work to temp again. Now, I am also going to work a Saturday job so that means six days a week at least for a couple of weeks. This will cut into my leisure time, but hopefully I can balance it. I have this weird idea that work begets more work and hopefully better work. I’ve had two jobs before, but not ones amounting to almost 50 hours per week.

Still, I’ll find some time for the books and the knitting here and there. The blog may be neglected for a bit, but I’ll still do my Sunday Salon posts. This will be the only day I have off.

Have a good week, everyone!

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

I found this memoirs about living in Paris through GoodReads. I do love the site, and it gives me numerous book recommendations every time I am there.

I have read several books on France and lived in Rhone-Alps one glorious spring and summer in 2010. If i had unlimited financially resources, France would definitely would be one of the countries I’d install myself. On the books about France, a number have been memoirs of living in Paris. This is at least my fifth nonfiction book about Paris.

The book is about a family of two sabbatical professors and their children. The author writes the book mostly in paragraph snippets and vignettes. I was not too keen on this format as it feels there is a lack of narrative. Though there is something quaint about it as it it s written snapshots in a the family photo album. The more I read it though, the more I got into this style as James like many expats in France describe the interesting little moments. I was soon sighing about my own memories of France and Paris. There was continuity in the stories about her children, her husband’s friend Florent, and the author’s food and fashion life.

There are a number of travel tips within the memoirs as it often happens and a couple of good cooking and fashion tips. I really grew to like this memoirs more than I thought. I recommend it to other readers with a fascination for memoirs and Paris. I still think the best Paris memoirs is Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik which I was blessed to take with me to Paris the first time I went. Both recommended.

Read February 8-9th 2013.

What do you love most about reading? – BTT

I love words, language and communication. I love to learn about new and old things. I love to escape into a novel of a faraway land or someplace in a backyard. I love to fall in love with fictional characters. I love to relax and be riveted at the same time by a book. I love that a book can always be there. I love how it exercises my mind. I love the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I get when I finish a particularly good and long book. I love that no matter how much I try to read more and faster, there seems to be an endless supply of good books in the world. I love that books were my first love and one of my first true friends.

Lots to things to love about reading and books. I could go on. How about you?

The Best American Travel Writing 2012

I’ve been reading this series of travel writing for about a decade now. I almost always find one or two selections that engrossing, provocative, or find the overall collection varied and interesting. This year’s selection was not as stimulating as previous ones. It was much more serious, somber and gritty.There were two stories about Northern Ireland and its troubles since the Peace Accord, one about South Africa and apartheid, and two on Mexico.

Perhaps it was the that 2011 year didn’t offer that many choices, but each year is slightly different due to the contributing editor. It isn’t as if the articles were badly written, but I’ve come to expect a mishmash and eclectic mix of articles from this series, and I found there was more uniformity in this one. I found myself forcing to read the book to finish it and not because I looked forward to the articles. I still adore this series, but the 2012 edition was not one of my favourites.

Read February 1st-7th 2013.

Checking back on my GoodReads account, I noticed I missed 2008 and the years 2001-3. My library does not have 2001, but I must have missed out on 2002 or 2003 for some reason. 2008 I missed out because I was not in the country. I will definitely pick up the 2008 to read.

Sandman: Dream Hunters

The Sandman series is my favourite graphic novel series, and I have read all the novels and the companion pieces except this one. This is actually a 20th anniversary special comic book adaptation of the earlier Sandman: The Dream Hunters which was drawn by Yoshitako Amano. It has been a few years since I read that one, and the only thing I remember from it were the surreal and interesting graphics.

It is a Japanese folk tale incorporating love, revenge, and greed. Classic themes all in the landscape of the Sandman’s playground. I have been on a Japanese kick lately so the timing was good for this and reminds me how long it’s been since I’ve seen the Asian folk tale trope of animal spirits and their ability to play tricks. The story is still all Gaiman though and Morpheus emphasizes that even though things ended the way they did, everyone learned a lesson through his intervention and his realm. Things are not fair, but at least one can learn from them even if it is just about yourself.

Recommended for those who like the series and Gaiman. I do think that Endless Nights and the two Death companion pieces ranks above this one, but I love this universe so anytime I get to read stories from it is a pleasure.

Read January 31st 2013.

Classics Club

There is a new challenge at the Classics Club where you pick twenty books, then a random number will be selected and each of us must read the number listed at X number by April 1st 2013.

Of course, the book selection must challenge you. My challenge is that I own almost every one of these books so I must read them to clear my TBR shelf. I have been having problems controlling the propagation of my book shelves. I need to read more books before I buy more.

I’ll update this post next Monday to announce which book I will read.

  1. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
  2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  3. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  6. William-an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton
  7. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. Don Quixote by Cervantes
  11. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  12. Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens
  13. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  14. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  15. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  16. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
  17. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
  18. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  19. The Complete Poems by T. S. Eliot
  20. The Return of the the Native by Thomas Hardy

What’s on your spin list?