Quarterly Book Review 1.3.2


My fabulous first guest blogger, Amy Goodloe, really out did herself, reviewing six books for this quarter! Here is part two of two:

Life, by Keith RichardsLife
Keith Richards
I didn’t know much about Keith Richards or the Rolling Stones before reading this book, they were before my time. Starting the book not knowing what to expect (except a lot of drugs) I was surprised by Keith’s honesty. He presented this book as a matter-of-fact chronicle of his time leading up to, and as, a Rolling Stone. The tone of the autobiography was conversational, complete with tangents, and other people to fill in the holes where he didn’t quite remember. While Keith’s reputation seems to be that of a coked-out rock star, this book sheds light on a very different Keith Richards. Keith’s need for more: more knowledge, more experience, more influences was obvious. He was always looking to better himself as a musician in general. He was never satisfied with what he had; he felt the need to grow constantly.

This book is a conversation. It is Keith giving you a glimpse into his world. The most shocking thing to me was not the drugs or the behavior; it was the acceptance of those as mundane. Keith led a very uneventful life until his world was turned upside down in a matter of weeks. The Rolling Stones took off FAST and haven’t slowed down yet.

For me this book works, just like it seems Keith’s life works for him. Keith has made me a fan, made me understand the choices he made in life. While I will never make the same decisions, Keith explained (not the right word, but I couldn’t find the right one: explained, defended, reflected on…somewhere in between those) how they made sense in the environment in which he lives.

On Mexican Time, by Tony CohanOn Mexican Time: A New Life In San Miguel
Tony Cohan
Tony Cohan does a wonderful job verbalizing the transformation one goes through when embracing Mexican culture. I love this book because I lived in Mexico as well and I felt as if Tony and I were sharing a secret, and understanding of the secret culture just south of our border. He understands the subtleties of colors, smells, flavor, sabor. Living in Mexico is a much larger undertaking than many would understand. The idea of Mexico in the United States is a place you go to party, but don’t drink the water. A place riddled with drugs and traffickers and the home of all the illegal aliens that we fear so much.

This is the story of Tony and his wife’s journey to accept Mexico and be accepted by Mexico as they move their lives across the border. This is a great story about people who feel empty in the constant battle of living in the United States and discover the more calm and serene culture on a trip to Mexico. When they leave after a three-week vacation nothing is the same for them anymore and they decide to move their lives to Mexico (they are artists who have the ability to work from home and travel for exhibits, publishers, galleries, etc). This is not a day-to-day account of what life is like in Mexico for Americans, but rather it is a journey of understanding. Understanding Mexico and how it has come to be, understanding themselves and the people they are and how that differs from who they wanted/expected to be and finally understanding all the relationships swirling around their uprooted lives.

Bravo to Tony Cohan for bringing me back to Mexico for a couple of days. Thank you, I have missed it.

Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary RoachStiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers
Mary Roach
I absolutely loved this book. I listened to Stiff on a trip to Portland that averaged 12 miles per hour on the freeway. Even though I was wildly late for the rehearsal dinner I was trying to get to, I was wildly entertained by Mary Roach’s investigation into the varied use of human cadavers. While this book should never be read over a meal, it is fascinating and addicting.

Roach’s writing style was one of my favorite parts of this book. She doesn’t talk at you or tell you what she learned. But rather she takes you on her journey into to deepest, darkest corners of cadaver-hood. The best part is her expert use of puns; she manages to keep the humor and light-hearted interest that sets the tone for the book.

This book is about curiosity not morbidity. Roach approaches the cadavers not as people, but as useful tools misunderstood by society. She is willing to track down any story, lead, use or study that will paint a more complete idea of the uses for human cadavers. She was the best guide for such a strange adventure. Still, she has (and communicates well) a reverence for these bodies. In introducing the topic she carefully explains her investigation into the world beyond the living. Her investigation is never disrespectful and often highlights the unsung contributions that cadavers have made to our everyday lives. They are tools, but they are given in the highest regard, often as a final gift.

If you are open to learning about a fascinating facet of science that is swept under the rug, let Mary Roach guide you through her exploration of the uses for our bodies after our souls have gone.

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