January 28th, 2012

zuko, dietotaku

Book #5: The Ancestor's Tale

My fifth book is The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. Like so much of Richard Dawkins's work, this is basically everything you ever wanted to know about evolution but were afraid to ask. This one is quite long, but with a good reason: the central conceit of the book is a backwards trip through the tree of life to the ancestor of everything that exists. Along the way, we stop at certain points to see what types of life join us and what we can learn from them.

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book diet

Books 4&5

recommended by a friend, i've read both Sisters of the Raven and Circle of the Moon, by Barbara Hambly. both were slow at first, but about 100 pages in the story picked up. the culture reminded me of a fuedal culture, with a king, his advisers, wealthy landowners... and a shady, poor part of the city as well... but it takes place in a hot, arid, desert area. Men used to be the magic users, but something has changed. and you don't realise just how much it's changed until near the end of the second book.

the author has also written two Star Wars novels i read last year, too.

#4: More than good wives and wise mothers

I finished Japanese Women: New Feminist Perspectives on the Past, Present, and Future today, a collection of over twenty essays relating to women's place in Japan throughout the centuries and It's intriguing for its sheer breadth alone - some essays are quick histories on certain issues like the evolution of female higher education or the traditional place of women in Buddhism; others are examinations of certain contemporary issues, like the difficulty of accessing Japan's new, nominal right to paternity leave or the unique plight of foreign workers in the Japanese sex trade; others are insightful portraits of notable women, like female artists in the Meiji period and 1980s female assemblywomen in an overwhelmingly male Diet. It covers a broad spectrum of topics, and you learn a lot of unexpected tidbits, like the prominent roles socialism and Christianity played in early Japanese feminism. Plus, the voices are overwhelmingly those of actual Japanese women which is important - so much of English nonfiction material on Japan is of the "I'd make such a better Japanese citizen than those ungrateful jerks!" self-impressed overseas-author variety.

The modern material is dated a bit, as the book was published in 1995. The book's good enough for a second edition to be released, though, and I can heartily recommend it in its current state to anyone with an interest in Japanese culture.
book and cup

#9 Yesterday Morning: a very English childhood - Diana Athill (2002)

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A remarkable, truthful and vivid recollection of childhood, from the author of Stet, After a Funeral, Don't Look at Me Like That and Instead of a Letter. Here Athill goes back to the beginning in a sharp evocation of a childhood unfashionably filled with happiness - a Norfolk country house, servants, the pleasures of horses, the unfolding secrets of adults and sex. This is England in the 1920s seen (with a clear and unsentimental eye) from the vantage point of England in 2001. It was a privileged and loving life: but did it equip the author to be happy?

Diana Athill was in her eighties when she wrote this memoir. It is full of fascinating social history from her privileged upbringing in Norfolk. Childhood exploits, ghosts in the nursery and a great deal of happiness, Diana Athill knows just how blessed she was. A story of a miraculous walk through nettles while looking for the household dogs is just one memorable tale. Diana Athill paints a wonderfully vivid picture of a life lived by a nice family of a certain class. She also poignantly describes her relationship with her mother - who lived until she was ninety six. With great honesty Diana explores her parents relationship, and why it was that she and her siblings hadn't such a close relationship with him. This is a short, well written memoir which I found completely charming and very readable.