2016 in Books, February

I’m beginning the draft of this post on February 22 with the hope that I will not be pregnant much longer. My girl is full term, and I would really like to bring her into this world sooner rather than later. I’m occupying some of my waiting time with reading, but mostly I spend spare moments sleeping. I wish I could bank these naps, but instead I’ll settle for getting them where I can. [UPDATE: Nope, it’s Leap Day, and I’m still pregnant. So very pregnant.]

  • Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History by David Christian
    • So I heard this story on NPR in January about Dr. Christian, big history and education. My first thought was, “Wow, that’s exactly how our story line for the new permanent exhibits are organized.” I told my boss, and what has followed has been two months of reading, talking, philosophizing and writing about how this well-articulated paradigm melds with what we were already planning. In general terms, this method examines how natural and human history are intertwined into one larger narrative. Big history is also about asking questions along the story line and being upfront about the tentative nature of some answers. Taking a long view of the past also makes it possible to confront questions of race, gender and class within the development of larger systems. It was a geeky discovery that got us re-fired up about a project many years in the making.
  • The Farm on the Roof: What the Brooklyn Grange Taught Us about Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Business by Anastasia Cole Plakias
    • I read this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. Plakias takes her readers on an enlightening tour of what it takes to start a profitable business in an unlikely location. While the story line of the book clearly focuses on urban farming, she also lays out practical advice on beginning any type of small business. I especially appreciated that she addressed how Brooklyn Grange has changed to accommodate economic realities without losing its focus on being a 3P (people, planet and profit) enterprise deeply rooted in their local community.
  • 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
    • A book about jazz and difficult people and unfortunate situations. Also about family and the past and how we move forward. It was a good read.
  • The Outside World by Tova Mirvis
    • I loved Mirvis’ first book–The Ladies Auxiliary–so I jumped at a chance to buy this one at a book sale. Like her debut novel, The Outside World deals with questions of identity and religion. What I enjoyed most about this book is the complexity she gave her characters. She allowed everyone who was willing to change to do so. Some of them grew towards each other, others moved away. Mirvis may have set her novel within an insular Orthodox Jewish world, but her characters and their desires struck me as intrinsically true regardless of the outside worlds they inhabited.
  • Rethinking the Museum and Other Meditations by Stephen Weil
    • This book is a solid 26 years old and features several essays about different aspects of museum work. I read it because I use some of Weil’s pieces when I teach museum studies and I wanted to see if there were any in this book that would be good for undergraduates. It was also an exercise in historiography and being a well-read professional.
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