Shelf Life Blog
The recent movie War Horse, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo, succeeded in showing the strong emotional connections between horses and people. Indeed, this bond was much a part of human history and everyday life up to the middle of the 20th century. Tamsin Pickeral’s book, The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art, is as much about history of this relationship as it is about art.
From Neolithic horse hunters’ vivid and probably shamanic cave paintings in France to portraits of proud aristocrats and royalty with their prized possessions to scenes such as the mournful “Ownerless Horse on the Battlefield at Mozhaisk in 1812,” by Adam Albrecht, the horses depicted are as much a projection of human feeling as they are simple studies in landscape or nature.
Ever wonder why some people just seem to be more successful at certain activities than others? Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, seeks to discover what gives certain people an edge to success while others seem to be left behind. Gladwell looks at athletes, lawyers, major players in the computer business, and even pilots to determine what these people have in common that makes their successes less the result of being statistical outliers— possessing higher personal attributes--and more the result of when and where they were born. This book breaks down the fortune of society's major power players to show that sheer talent may not be the only thing that successful people have in common.
In The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Princess Elisa is sixteen years old and getting married to a man she has never met – King Alejandro from neighboring country Joya d’Arena. Although plump Elisa often feels commonplace and dowdy, she is widely considered singular because she was chosen to bear the Godstone, a once-in-a-century occurrence. The living stone nestled in her navel marks her as God’s chosen one with a special destiny. Elisa has spent her years in Brisadulce living in her older sister’s shadow and studying the Scriptura Sancta in relative peace. Upon leaving, she is about to be thrust into a world of political intrigue and omnipresent danger for which she is ill prepared.
Does anyone actually like writing thank-you notes? Of course, you are grateful and thankful for the thoughtful gifts from your loved ones, but what do you actually write in the thank-you note? And how long does the note have to be?
In Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, by Peggy Gifford, ten-year-old Moxy Maxwell, who is a master procrastinator, has promised her mother that she will have all of her holiday thank-you notes finished by the day after Christmas. Part of the rush is due to the fact that she and her brother, Mark, are going to visit their father in California and are going to a star-studded New Year’s Eve Hollywood bash. In order to go to California and attend the fun New Year’s Eve party Moxy MUST have her thank-you notes finished. In true Moxy fashion, she finds plenty of activities to distract her from her task. As time ticks by, Moxy develops many shortcut plans in order to have her thank-you notes done on time...one of which includes her stepfather’s brand-new copy machine and a can of gold spray paint.
“Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values. It’s about enjoying the things you love and care about and not stressing over the things that don’t matter.”
I love reading about new systems for meal planning, housekeeping, and productivity….but when it comes time to implement them, I often get lost in the details and quickly return to my previous, imperfect system. Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider goes beyond the checklists: “…at the foundation of this book is the idea of redefining simplicity…I want to help you find what simple living looks like for you.” Oxenreider does this by gently guiding the reader through several reflective steps, like creating a family mission statement, evaluating your family’s current commitments, and making a plan to get and stay out of debt. Then she provides concrete, action steps for decluttering, cleaning, and organizing your physical space.
It's November 2004, and a group of Marines called the Lava Dogs of the First Battalion,Third Marine Regiment, stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, are about to clear a room in an abandoned home when they hear a suspicious sound. Instead of immediately shooting, which could save their lives if an enemy were in the other room, the Marines just listen. They hear something small sniffing and clicking around the old home. Before anyone can shoot, they notice what it is: a puppy. From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman is the story of what happens to a puppy who attaches himself to a group of Marines.
There was more than one wide-scale genocide in the 20th century. In 1916, the Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha sent a letter to the government of Aleppo in Syria reminding them that all Armenians living in Turkey were be destroyed completely: “An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex nor to conscientious scruples.” It was an order that was to be echoed by Adolph Hitler in 1939 in pursuing the end of “the Polish-speaking race.” Hitler added, “After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?”
Just what makes those Lucky Charms so "magically delicious™?" Why, the imprisonment of leprechauns, unicorns, uni…cats and other fantastic creatures.
At least, that’s according to Cold Cereal, the new fantasy novel by Adam Rex.
Goodborough, New Jersey, is the home of Goodco, a sugary cereal company that dominates millions of breakfast tables with an iron spoon—er…fist. The town is also the new home of Scottish Play Doe and his family. His mother has just accepted a job there. Scott’s absent dad is a famous actor whose latest claim to fame is punching the Queen of England in the face.
Making friends at a new school is pretty hard when you have a name as strange as Scott’s. Thankfully, he finds some pretty weird friends. Erno and Emily Utz are genius twins who look nothing alike. Their foster father, Mr. Wilson, also works for Goodco and is constantly challenging them with games of coded logic. Like when he suddenly stops using the letter E.
I used to have an old Volvo that broke down frequently. The problem was a hose that would fly off of the engine. I always carried a screwdriver which I would use to reattach the hose and go on my way. One morning I was rushing in the door to work after one of these episodes when my supervisor stopped me. “What happened to you?” she asked with concern. I had no idea what she was talking about until I followed her eyes down to my arms and realized that my forearms were covered with black dirt and grease.
I explained about having to fix my car on the way to work, and she just stood and stared at me silently for a very awkward minute. Suddenly she burst into song! “I am woman. Hear me roar. With numbers too big to ignore. And I’ve come too far to turn back and pretend.” She turned to walk away but kept on singing at the top of her lungs. Her song only died away when she turned the corner and went down the other hall.
Right then and there I decided to get a new car.
“Our beliefs do not determine what is true or false. They do not determine objective reality. But they do determine what we see.”
In Believing Is Seeing, Errol Morris investigates the complex relationship between documentary photographs and the truth we assume they deliver. Best known as the gifted documentarian behind films such as The Fog of War, Standard Operating Procedure, and The Thin Blue Line, Morris has spent years pondering how authenticity, truth, and appearance converge and complicate one another. It is hardly surprising then that Morris’s analysis of documentary photography is insightful and accessible.
Errol Morris’s cinematic explorations often fixate on a specific figure or series of events. He then breathes life into the topic by artfully combining provocative interviews and extensive research. Believing is Seeing successfully incorporates this methodology while simultaneously deconstructing the very notion of documentary veracity. The book consists of essays, each one describing a case study in which documentary photographs created controversy, conflicting interpretations, or troubling implications. Morris elucidates both the context and reception of each image with interviews and archival research.
He also analyzes both contemporary and historical images, demonstrating that many of the same issues and questions have been recurring since the advent of photography. Whether the photograph was taken in 1855 during the Crimean War or in 2003 at Abu Ghraib, our collective tendency to equate an image with a finalized truth has been problematic. To borrow Morris’s succinct phrasing, “…photographs allow us to think we know more than we really do. We can imagine a context that isn’t really there.”