Saturday, June 19, 2010

Good Reading for the Weekend at the WSJ

The Wall Street Journal had tons of good stuff ... here are my picks:
  • The Case for Having More Kids
    The main problem with parenting pessimists, though, is that they assume there's no acceptable way to make parenting less work and more fun. Parents may feel like their pressure, encouragement, money and time are all that stands between their kids and failure. But decades' worth of twin and adoption research says the opposite: Parents have a lot more room to safely maneuver than they realize, because the long-run effects of parenting on children's outcomes are much smaller than they look.
    A must read story about having more children which uses statistics and current observations to counter "what everybody knows." Tom and I agree that this story's information and attitude is much needed and a true reflection of what we have experienced. The short version would be: don't worry, be happy, and relax more. I am going to read this book when it comes out.

  • Frederick Douglass's Eloquent Biography
    By its own terms, "Narrative" is the story of "how a slave became a man," and that story is intimately connected with Douglass's discovery, while still a slave, of the power of language. That process, as told in "Narrative," began like a trickster's tale. After learning a few letters of the alphabet by observing the markings on timbers in a shipyard, Douglass started boasting of what he knew to be his very limited knowledge to the white boys he met, knowing that, in their pride, the boys would try to top him by showing him letters he had not mastered. In this way, Douglass recalled, he got "a good many lessons in writing." The true turning point in his education, however, came when he happened upon a copy of "The Columbian Orator," a book of classic speeches, poems and dialogues "calculated to improve youth . . . in the ornamental and useful art of eloquence."
  • The Bumper Book of Nature
    Not so funny but sadder still is the degree to which our own tech-absorbed society is cut off from nature's beauty and cadences. That sentiment, at least, and with gentle rue rather than Betjeman-like invocations of violence, is what emanates from the pleasant pages of "The Bumper Book of Nature: A User's Guide to the Great Outdoors." [...]

    Mr. Moss further urges readers to pursue outdoor pleasures that might seem laughably self-evident. "Climb a tree," he exhorts, and then goes on to explain when it is best to climb (late fall, when the leaves have dropped) and what it is most prudent to wear (jeans and a long-sleeved top, to keep from getting skinned). "Stand out in the rain," Mr. Moss advises. "It doesn't have to be for long—just time enough to appreciate the sensation of pure rainwater."

    Screamingly obvious? Well, sure. Yet the spirit of this sweet book is such that one is inclined less to mock than to think: "What a great idea!" And there is no doubting that Mr. Moss is onto something.
    Hannah, with her training in wildlife and nature (and Wildlife Biologist certificate in sight), has had occasion to bring up the idea several times in the last couple of weeks just how divorced most of us are from nature. Sometimes it is to the point where people are afraid of it in any manifestation. This looks like a nice counter to that tendency. I am going to see if our library has a copy.

  • Three Shaw Films in Their DVD Debut
    George Bernard Shaw loved movies—or, more accurately, silent ones. But he didn't much care for early sound films, especially cinematic adaptations of his plays. That is until the appearance on his doorstep in 1935 of Gabriel Pascal, a gap-toothed, Transylvania-born actor turned producer who, in the words of the playwright's biographer Michael Holroyd, "belonged to a breed of troubadour-entertainers . . . for whom Shaw had special fondness."
  • What I Learned in Pappy's Study
    I can still see him now, balding and bearded, seated behind his massive wooden desk, his powerful shoulders bent over a book, left hand pulling a pencil across the page. I enter Pappy's study and he looks up from his reading and greets me. Sometimes the greeting is light and playful; sometimes it is weary or stern. Always it is followed by the same: "Come, have a seat, son."

    To enter my father's home was to step into his scrutinizing gaze, a gaze that swept over my geometric haircuts, oversized basketball jerseys and voluminous, sagging trousers like an infrared beam, ...
    Sadly, this is only available to WSJ online subscribers and if you are one then I urge you to go read this. For the rest of us (except actual subscribers like me) then go look for William's book, Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture. Another one I'm going to be hitting our library for.


  1. Julie, I read "Losing My Cool" and it is very good. I also finished "Major Pettigrew" last night (on your recommendation) and loved it. What a bittersweet story (but with the proper ending).

  2. I was going to say that "The Case for Having More Kids" was better read on dead tree edition, due to the ridiculously cute collage of baby faces, but I see that the collage can also be found far down the page of the article.

    Loves me some cute baby faces.