The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin

Find in catalogAn eye-opening story based on the facts of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s life as child and later wife of Charles Lindbergh, first aviator to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean. The author has used letters and archives to factually base her story that shows that Anne Lindbergh was the true hero of the couple. I won’t spoil the surprise but the author does include a chapter after the fictional novel to show how deeply she based her story on research…some very surprising elements in Mr. Lindbergh’s life that were not known until after his death. This is a woman as hero story.

All the single ladies : unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation , by Rebecca Traister

Find in catalogWell, well. This author makes a great case for single life for women as being the best of all worlds. And it turns out more and more women are opting for just that. There are interesting sections on the history of marriage, especially in the U.S. There are many studies and statistics cited on how women find that other women are their best ‘family’ members they depend on for emotional intimacy and practicalities of life. Friends make huge differences in our happiness level.

The Mathematics of Love, by Hannah Fry

Find in catalogInteresting and enlightening….the last chapter shows a formula for marital strength, and in my own words coining a popular phrase it essentially is: ‘if Mama ain’t happy aint nobody happy”…which pertains as long as the wife is affected emotionally by the husband’s behavior. Which I think would cover most marriages. Other chapters cover chances of success in online dating, when statistically to choose a permanent mate, and how looks factor in to online dating chances.

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer

Find in catalogCan’t recommend this book highly enough. Extremely well researched, it begins with the Koch family whose fortune was started decades ago building oil refineries in Russia and Germany. Two brothers in the contentious family partnered in promoting libertarian views to the extreme of believing that the only purpose government has to exist is to protect property rights and business holdings. My impression was that extreme views include no taxes for schools, definitely no workers’ rights unions, and a desire to do away with most government departments/agencies. Of course, Social Security is a bad thing! This book details decades of the establishing of hundreds of think tanks and institutes (that are tax-deductible to contribute to due to classification as charitable/educational), even at universities, with helpful sounding names such as National Right to Work Committee, Public Engagement Group Trust, Common Sense Issues, Inc., U.S. Health Freedom Coalition, etc., that basically teach the desirability of dismantling government as we know it. Contrary to public opinion, the Tea Party uprising was not a spontaneous people-led movement but was orchestrated for decades and was named by longtime associates of the Kochs who ran an organization called the Sam Adams Alliance. The book ends on the sad note that the Kochs were planning to spend on the current 2016 presidential election almost 90% of what each of the Democrat and Republican parties were planning to spend (a billion each). There are decades worth of reasons the US Congress is unable to do much; so many new placeholders in congress don’t believe in government at all and are determined to prove it.

Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich by Peter Schweizer

Find in catalogI strongly recommend this for anyone planning on voting in the presidential election next year. This is investigative reporting that isn’t necessarily going to be found in short newspaper or magazine articles. The author has included 45-plus pages of bibliographic citations to back up his study of how the Clintons have made dozens of millions of dollars in Bill’s speechmaking fees ($500,000 for a one-hour speech in India) in addition to many many more donations to the Clinton Foundation. The problem is that many of the payments have been followed by or preceded by support by either or both Clintons for the same foreign entity that made the payment and/or donation. At times the Clintons even seemed to change their opinions and their support. The issues at stake are huge (for instance, India’s the only country not held to the normally strict rule of signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty before being given more nuclear resources). Another example is noted in the book jacket: “How Bill received $2 million for speeches from the largest shareholder in the Keystone Pipeline project, even as Hillary played a role in approving it.” Many of the foreign principals have been accused of human rights violations, corruption, and other serious issues. There is a lot of info here, albeit more questions than answers, due to the intricacies of the issues under discussion. I’d recommend chapters 4,5,6, and 8 as the most astounding and interesting to me.

The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need for the Right Financial Plan by Larry Swedroe

Find in catalogThis is a book for folks already well-versed in terms like ‘small cap’, “allocation’,’value vs growth’, ‘active vs. passive’, etc. I think it’s a great book with short paragraphs, sub-titles in bold print–along with ‘recommended’ or ‘not recommended’ (e.g., ‘variable annuities: not recommended’)….etc., which makes it easy to skim through the book looking for the advice that may fit your financial interests and situation. It is also written for both retired and pre-retired readers. They give straight-forward advice and cover an amazing array of possibilities in investing for one’s future. I looked at it originally because it had been recommended to include a guide to finding how much ‘risk’ one would feel alright assuming in investing. I wouldn’t say it is the ONLY guide you’ll ever need, because I think it would take many other guides to explain in more detail the fundamentals of finance. But it is a nice reference book; albeit a bit dated (2010).

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White

Find in catalogLike a letter that might have been written 30 or 40 years ago, Quite A Year for Plums is quiet, deeply connected to place, tender and funny.

The major dramas in the characters’ lives, divorce and death, have taken place off-stage before the book begins. One of the divorced men, Roger, a plant pathologist, is the pivot around which the book turns. Though he speaks little in the book, a quartet of women mostly in their 70s speak often of him, his situation, and his new love interest, Della, a painter and “a serious woman, with her mind on birds.” They also speak often of his ex-wife, Ethel, a woman whose behavior one of the group finds it difficult to condone or even to comprehend.

Criticized by some readers for “lacking plot,” what we have instead is the stuff of daily life: relationships and the conflict, adventures, and change that result as individual needs arise. Along the way we learn about such things as the problems in making art, the Betty Sheffield camellia, and the final days of a 35 year old horse.

White makes ample use of her wonderful sense of the absurd. In one scene a forester, impassioned about the uses of fire, utters, “Smokey Bear is the most destructive animal that ever walked the North American continent.” In another scene White intertwines–to hilarious effect–a conversation about the deaths resulting from a recent airplane crash in a swamp and another about Ethel’s impact on men.

White draws recognizable characters with human failings who misunderstand, forgive, and show kindness to each other. For a reader willing to contemplate the meaning of the small gesture, this book is full of riches.

Reviewed by Lily

Color: A course in mastering the art of mixing colors by Betty Edwards

Find in catalogThough this book is now ten years old, it is invaluable for beginners who want a working knowledge of color. Edwards teaches us succinctly and clearly just enough theory and then puts a paint brush in our hands and provides a series of graduated exercises.

Edwards bases her approach to color on brain science, specifically the observation that the brain longs for balance and creates after-images that are complements in hue, value, and intensity to the initial image. The exercises that she has designed bring all of these concepts alive and embed them in consciousness.

Edwards takes nothing for granted when she coaches. For example, she teaches that in pigments there is no true blue or true red. These two hues have trace chemicals that cause problems in mixtures with other pigments. As a result, painters need both a warm and a cool red as well as a warm and a cool blue.

The first exercise that Edwards introduces is creating a color wheel (hue). Next, a value wheel and several intensity wheels help to sharpen understanding of the other two attributes of color. Then students move on to the major project that illustrates the themes that Edwards has developed. This project, Edwards writes, is “like a musical fugue with a theme that is stated and then restated with variations.” Having chosen a pleasing piece of fabric or wrapping paper, the student recreates it, first matching the colors used, then creating a section with the complements to the original colors, another section with opposite values, and a third section with opposite intensities, then repeating the original hues. Interestingly, several student projects have been bought right off the walls of California State University at Long Beach, a highly unusual happenstance, and something Edwards attributes to the balance achieved by this method.

In the final chapters of the book Edwards takes on the problems of color constancy and simultaneous contrast. Both of these technical terms have to do with the difficulty the brain has in actually registering the color that the retina sees. She provides guidance and exercises in her trademark economy and clarity. She ends her book with a chapter on the symbolism of color.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Lily

Keeping Bees in Towns and Cities by Luke Dixon

Keeping Bees in Towns and CitiesWe don’t plan to keep bees, but we would like to host a hive through our local non-profits, Beyond Toxics and Healthy Bees = Healthy Gardens. This book served as an excellent introduction to bees and the habits of their keepers. It helped me to identify five questions to ask the beekeeper to ensure a good fit for our neighbors and for us.

Dixon covers the essentials: choosing a hive; choosing a nucleus of bees; the life cycle of bees, and caring for the hive through the year. He has a valuable chapter on plants that bees love and the colorful pollen they collect from them, as well as twenty-three short examples of beekeeping in a variety of settings in mostly English speaking places around the globe. His book ends with a list of international web resources.

Dixon mentions that he began to explore beekeeeping when he needed “something quieter, more peaceful, more ‘natural’ in [his] life.” The peace he has found is evident in the pace of the book. It has just the right amount of information and an engaging balance between words and pictures.

Reviewed by Lily