Friday, August 7, 2009

Showered with Books

The Woman Behind the New Deal, Kirstin Downey
This book was a gift from my aunt at my bridal shower (yes, I know it seems random, and that's because it is...I love my family!) It's about Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor. Eleanor Roosevelt gets a lot of credit for being a powerful woman but Frances Perkins was unbelievable. She was the first ever female cabinet secretary. She spent her whole life fighting for laborers, advancing the 40 hour workweek, the end of child labor, and the beginning of unemployment insurance and Social Security. You've probably seen bumper stickers that say "The 40 Hour Work Week: Brought to you by Unions". Well they should say brought to you by Frances Perkins! As for the book itself, I really enjoyed it. There were a few chapters in the middle that got dragged down in policy and lost focus on Frances in particular but overall it was a great look at an incredible woman. Thanks Aunt Ellen!

Room With A View, E. M. Forster
As much as I have read, I often see lists of the classics and realize how much I haven't read. I sometimes take issue with "must-read" lists of "classic" books just because not everybody is going to like them all. Still, I try to give them a chance. I enjoyed Room With A View but it's not a book I'm going to read twice. Ah well, check it off the list! I am definitely going to check out the Merchant Ivory film made about it with a star studded cast.

The Coffee Trader, David Liss
This was another shower gift (thanks Nujoud). It's the story of a Jewish merchant in 17th century Amsterdam who is looking to regain his fortune through an investment in a new commodity: coffee. But the theme of the book is really about people and how we can lose sight of the forest for the trees. I really enjoyed this because as the plot progressed its complexity grew, but it only served to illuminate the characters even more. In the last hundred pages I was completely engrossed. Aside from the characters, the historical perspective was fascinating. British banking looked to the Dutch at that time as examples. They had the first modern stock exchange with futures changing hands and bubbles that left people poor as quickly as it had made them rich. Sound familiar? This is definitely worth a read for all of you because it has something of everything: history, economy, mystery, lust, and greed. I'm adding the rest of David Liss' books to my list to read. High praise!

Next up: Julia Child's memoir My Life in France, so that I can go to the movies to see "Julie and Julia"!

1 comment:

Marcia said...

Well written reviews, as always.
I'd like to borrow Coffee Trader. I guess your suitcase will be a little full next time you come home since it will be for YOUR WEDDING!
Maybe I can get it over Thanksgiving or Christmas.