Despite my high hopes for lots of travel reading (confession: I watched three hours of Call the Midwife on one of my flights when I should have been reading), I had but modest achievements this month. Here’s what I read.
It stinks to be poor. But you already knew that.
I was really irritated while I read this book, and it took me almost the entire month to figure out why. It’s not that the author is playacting at being a minimum-wage worker, essentially on “poor-person-safari”. She makes ample apologies for that throughout the book. It’s not that the people she encounters aren’t rendered with respect. It’s not even that it tells me something I already knew: that it stinks to be poor.
Only in the last day or so did I realize what aggravated me about this book: That it needed to be written at all. As I read, I imagined each argument that the book was rebutting – that if the poor would just work harder, or not have babies, or not drive cars, or not be so trashy and uneducated and lazy and, well, poor, that things would be easier for them.
Even though this book came out years ago, its still relevant, perhaps even more so now that the economy has caused many more people financial hardship. I was glad to hear that a family friend was reading this as part of his summer reading, because there are likely many of his classmates who could stand to have their myths about wage-earners busted up.
I never thought I would say that I read a travel guide – I usually find myself treating them as references rather than literature – but during our preparations and travels to Rome I went through this cover to cover.
We only spent a few days in Rome, but I still pored over Steves’ easy, conversational descriptions of the best parts of the city and the best way to enjoy them. I only wish they’d had his guide for all of Italy at the library (which is where I acquired all of this month’s books), because I would have put that to good use as well.
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” This seems to have been the guiding principal for those who recount the life and times of Galileo Galilei.
I once previewed a video to use in class that showed an ancient, decrepit, sweaty Galileo being threatened by a growling, crazy-eyed Cardinal Bellarmine in a dark and solitary interrogation room. That Bellarmine discussed heliocentrism with Galileo over a decade before the scientist’s late-in-life trial before the Inquisition, and that he was dead when Galileo’s book was put on the Index, did not seem to bother the filmmakers.
Not only does Galileo’s Daughter present a more nuanced and accurate description of Galileo’s relationship with the institutional Church (of which he always considered himself a faithful and obedient member), it also captures Florentine life in the 1600s. What I was struck by most was the way that people relied on each other. Community was paramount, hospitality was lifesaving, and letter-writing (the cornerstone of this well-researched book) was necessary and, in the hands of these protagonists, elegant.
I’m still working on Anna Karenina, which I read about half of before switching to Galileo’s Daughter. I’m learning that I don’t enjoy reading on my iPad, which is a disappointment. There is a strong likelihood that I will get the Tolstoy from the library and finish it the old fashioned way.
What are you reading?
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Purchases made through these links send some change back into my piggy bank.