Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Little Reading

I've fallen a bit behind on my reading goals in the past couple months, but thanks to having to slow down because of my back, I'm catching up a bit.  I don't often do book reviews here, but I have been reading a lot of interesting stuff lately, so it seemed a good topic for the day.

The Cat Who Came In From The Cold by Deric Longden
     I ran across this in the library yesterday, and was slightly hesitant at first because the success of Marley & Me (which I didn't like and couldn't make it through) has created a flurry of pet-themed books, but this one predates all of that, and--since I am behind--had the merciful quality of being short.  And it was delightful.  I was laughing aloud by page 7, and finished it before going to sleep.  Short, delightful, and definitely a fun book for anyone who has had a cat.  And, a nice break after:

Luckiest Man:  The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig
   Having lost 2 friends to Lou Gehrig's disease, I knew how the book would end, am not a fan of spectator sports, and have only seen one baseball game in my entire life - and I was still riveted to this darn book, and Mr. Eig owes me for the hours of sleep I lost staying up to read his book.  Thankfully, it wasn't so heavily about baseball that someone like me wouldn't understand it, though I did finally learn what RBI means.  Obviously, a really sad book, but a tremendous read, all the same

The Big Burn:  Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan
   At one of my appointments, my gynecologist recommended that I read The Big Burn.  (I know that sounds odd, but what else are you going to talk about if not books or something ordinary?)  I wrote it down as it did sound interesting--it's about a huge forest fire in Idaho back in 1910.  Then I found out the full title included the phrase "saved America," which moved it to the "no way am I reading that" list.  It has been my experience that the term "nonfiction" has come to be pretty loosely applied to some very bad books in the past few years.  Anything making gigantic claims usually has meant that the author might have truly done research, but then chose to present a whoppingly-biased account which should be moved into a whole new category:  so-completely-slanted-that-it-belongs-on-Fox-News.  A fire saving America?  Not likely.  But then another friend (on Goodreads--I love that site) also raved about it, so I caved and grudgingly borrowed it from the library as an audio book, since I require much less of a book I can listen to than one I physically read.  Thankfully, the book was wonderful--and it's pretty obvious that whoever came up with that silly name was in a marketing department and hadn't really read the book.  Mr. Egan deserved much better.  It's an especially interesting read to an Idahoan, because some of the crooked land issues from that era are now (in my understanding) causing a new ruckus and some federal investigations.  It was also really interesting to read because the political machinations could have been written about today.  Teddy Roosevelt put a huge amount of land--in Idaho among other places--into federal reserves, and it's still an issue in Idaho 100 years later.  If there's a way to make money, it usually has a big lobby behind it giving money to politicians, and that has never changed.  Having land set aside that one can't harvest timber on or graze cattle on or in any other way make money on has chapped generations of Idaho companies, and there have certainly been loopholes throughout the years.  I'm not against making money, but it does seem like we are pretty lousy land stewards sometimes.  Does having a tiny portion of the U.S. safe from economic influence really cause anyone harm?  Luckily for the future generations of Idahoans, some of the land in Idaho is so inaccessible that nothing can ever be done to it, but much of this book could have been written about the political wrangling today. 
     The book also talks about the start of the Forest Service, and in this era of Republicans screaming about the "welfare" state, it's a good reminder of why we have some of the programs and laws we have.  The Forest Service was underfunded, understaffed, and when one of the biggest fires ever broke out, many of them lost the rangers died fighting it, and hundreds were maimed or injured.  Know how much of their medical bills the U.S. picked up for those hurt in the line of duty?  Not one blasted cent.  Hospitals actually STOPPED TREATMENT for one ranger because he didn't have money.  The early Forest Service men were paid lousy wages, seriously understaffed, went broke if they were injured, had no safety equipment, and often died.  And we could easily get back to such a state if we don't start learning from our own history.  Sad.

1 comment:

RobinH said...

Okay, now I have to recommend Ken Burns National Parks series. Not only is it gorgeous, but it talks about how the National Parks and Forests got founded, what the difference is, the political machinations that surrounded them, the often odd and fascinating people involved and was just generally a great series. Roosevelt obviously is one of the major figures.

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