MONDAY MUSINGS SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder: A Review

The paperback edition I read was a 20th anniversary edition and was advertised as being about “life, the universe, and everything” which made me think of Douglas Adams.  However, two books could not be more unalike.  Sophie, the fourteen year old protagonist who is about to turn fifteen and is just beginning to be aware of herself, her surroundings, and her life in general, begins to receive strange postcards and letters addressed to another fourteen year old girl halfway around the world named Hilde.  The letters seem to be from Hilde’s father who is making plans to return to her on her fifteenth birthday, but strangely enough they are sent in care of Sophie and addressed correctly to Sophie’s address.

The plot alone is enough to keep the reader interested, but the book turns out to be a study in philosophy from Plato and Socrates to Marx and Sartre. Sophie in Philosophy World takes twists and turns similar to Alice in Wonderland.  The book, as one critic said, is an “easily grasped way of thinking about difficult ideas. If nothing else, the book is highly original.

Published first in 1995, the paperback edition of this YA “classic” is available as of 2015, thus the 20th anniversary of its publication.

At times this is a hard read, but it is good review of the study of philosophers with examples given that are fairly easy to comprehend and apply.  This book will answer many questions, but it will keep you coming up with questions of your own.



My blogging friend, James Cudney at This is My Truth Now has started a tag/game where he has posed several questions about one’s reading, looking back over what one has read since January of this year. I am responding to some/most of the prompts he has given.

  1. The best book you have read so far in 2017–That would have to be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  It not only made me think; it changed my thinking.
  2. Your favorite sequel this year–Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle a YA novel by children’s author I discovered while teaching sixth graders.
  3. A new release that you haven’t read but really want to–Just about every book reviewed in the Sunday editions of The Houston Chronicle.
  4. Your Biggest Disappointment– The Education of Dixie Dupree.  I’m not sure if I can come up with a reason why.
  5. The Biggest Surprise of the Year–Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  I found I put everything aside and finished it in two days.  It was that good of a “read.”
  6. I’m going to skip on the questions What is your new fictional crush? (I’m too old to have crushes.) and Who is your new favorite character? (I have met many outstanding characters this year!)
  7. A book that made you cry–Who Said I Was Up for Adoption by Colin Chappell–When I thought Ray (the dog) wasn’t going to make it, I thought, Oh no, another sad-ending dog story.  Thank goodness the book has a happy ending!                                                                      Thank goodness I’ve answered the questions “to the best of my ability,” especially since these are off the top of my head without consulting my reading log which is in the other room and I am too lazy to get up and get. Now–Tag, you’re it!

BEFORE WE VISIT THE GODDESS by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A REVIEW

This 2016 publication particularly appealed to me because I had read Divakaruni’s One Amazing Thing and because I knew she was a professor of Creative Writing at The University of Houston, not only my alma mater, but also one of the five campuses in the system that employs me. She has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, so I was aware of her writing prowess going in to this novel. It deals with four generations of women and the ins and outs of mother daughter relationships.

The setting ranges from Bengal, India to Houston, Texas, another selling point for me. Basically it is the story of Sabritri, daughter of the village sweets maker, Durga; Sabritri’s daughter Bella; and her daughter Tara. The novel explores many different forms and kinds of love, love that reaches across generations. All of the women are strong female characters, all finely developed and drawn. The novel opens with a letter which Sabritri is writing at Bela’s request to her granddaughter, Tara. The letter and its significance surfaces at the end of the novel where all is revealed, all suppressed emotions let out, all misconceptions straightened out, all family mysteries solved.  All in all it is a most satisfactory ending. The plot moves us through estrangements and reconciliations as it twists and turns, masterfully allowing us to feel what the characters are feeling.

This author is a supreme storyteller, a fine characterization master, and a very readable author.  This is one I stayed up late to finish.

Medication frustration

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Image result for frustration cartoon child proof

My eyes no longer work too well…
I cannot read small print;
I don’t know where my glasses are
And always have to squint.

My hands, of course, are even worse,
My fingers ache and swell,
Arthritis, past its sell-by date,
Is putting them through hell.

Now factor in an RSI,
Because I type too much,
Then add a dodgy back and stuff…
I wince with every touch.

And so to get some small relief
To bottles, I retreat,
Not gin, though with the child-proof caps
On pills, I’d drink it neat!

It’s age-discrimination
When they proof the pots for kids,
‘Cause when your hands are playing up,
You can’t take off the lids.

Though some pills come all wrapped in foil
That’s fine and dandy, but…
As soon as you begin to rip
The stuff, you end up cut.

So, reaching for the first aid kit
You rummage for…

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Wednesday’s Words: On Shel Silverstein and Other Things

Continuing with the idea of teaching poetry to elementary age kids, one sure fire poet is Shel Silverstein, a favorite of kids and adults alike.  With Silverstein, one does not have to wait for an occasion to integrate poetry into daily activities, whether in the classroom or at home (Listen up Grandparents!). Looking at trash from the classroom or from the home, Silverstein’s “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” is the perfect poetry “happening.” Reading aloud the sound-filled poem (“She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans”) introduces what Sarah will and will not do.  Taking the garbage out is where she draws the line.  Vivid, but gross images follow:

“And so it piled up to the ceilings:

Coffee grounds, potato peelings,

Brown bananas, rotten peas,

Chunks of sour cottage cheese…

…With bacon rinds and chicken bones,

Drippy ends of ice cream cones,

Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,

Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,

Pizza crusts and withered greens,

Soggy beans and tangerines,

Crusts of black burned buttered toast,

Gristly bits of beefy roasts…

This poem is as much fun for Mom or Grandma to read as it is for Sally and Noah to hear and imagine.  It is a smile bringer when little Joe or Carole do not want to fulfill their daily chore of taking the garbage bag to the trash can in the garage or to the dumpster. After hearing the poem, they will be in a better mood, laugh, and “get it over with.”

Sunday (Evening) Post

It is back to reading, coming with a few rainy days in a row.  I had about finished up several books, so this past few days, I have started a few “new” ones. Striving to work some non-fiction into my reading, my “grandson” loaned me a very readable non-fiction work by Luis Alberto Urrea, The Devil’s Highway, which deals with immigrants’ desperate attempts to achieve a better life in this country and the work of the US Border Patrol.  I am only on chapter two, but am thoroughly “hooked.” I am looking forward to reading more on this book this coming week.

Last week I started a unique review of Philosophy 101 in novel form in the YA “classic”, Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaardner.  The introduction to this, the 20th anniversary edition, by the author is enough to stimulate anyone’s curiosity, and the novel itself is extremely engaging. In a week’s time I have read a little over one half of this hefty, thought provoking, mysterious novel. I also began Garth Stein’s (author of Racing in the Rain) A Sudden Light, also a mysterious, somewhat supernatural novel written in 2014. I am only on chapter seven, which is scarcely into the book, as the chapters are pleasantly short.  All of these books are keeping me reading.  I am also continuing with Gary Pegoda’s Who Is Human?  on my Kindle app on my laptop.  I am definitely going to ask for a real Kindle for my birthday coming up, for the glare does not allow me to read for long periods of time.  The story just keeps getting more and more interesting, and although I cannot predict where it is going, I want to keep reading to find out.

We have been turning the house upside down and inside out, placing new furniture and moving pieces from room to room.  Our sixteen year old cat, Lena, is most upset because nothing is where it used to be (except for the granite topped table in the breakfast room and the large dining room table and assorted furniture in the dining room), and she seems somewhat disoriented and confused.  As long as she has her “box”, food and water bowls, and a window next to the window seat to look out of, I think she will be fine.

The PWR ladies met last Sunday (I was too exhausted to do a Sunday (Evening) Post last week because we had such a good time, and although our numbers were small, we had a lovely visit, and we were able to send attendees home with sandwiches for husbands for supper and various baggies full of “snacks” for the coming week.) It was a matter of quality time, and considering that it was Memorial Day Weekend and many had family plans, I was especially pleased.  Everyone took home some books to read, and a couple brought books to loan and magazines for my Bookworm Club (which will meet in July)which we will use to cut up for vocabulary “projects.”

It was a good week, and the week ahead promises to hold many good things as well. I wish the same for you and yours.

A Good Book for a Psychology Textbook, Beyond Human Nature: How Culture and Experience Shape the Human Mind: A Review

While tidying up and rearranging furniture in all the rooms in anticipation of out-of-state company in June, I came across a yellow legal pad which had fallen behind the dresser.  On it were the notes for a review of Jesse J. Prinz’s book which deals with the human mind.  Checking back over Sunday (Evening) Posts, I never reported finishing the book nor posted its review, so here it is.

This 2012 publication by Jesse J. Prinz would make an excellent psychology textbook, as it deals with a review of the nature vs nature debate while focusing on what is uniquely human and what is universally human as opposed to the animal kingdom. Studies and case studies from both kingdoms are given as well as the author’s “take” on the role of biology on the human mind and on human behaviors. The author takes issue with the notion that “genetics explains all,” as he explains that society and culture influence the human brain as well.

The book opens with a brief review of the nature vs nurture issue, giving historical background on these thoughts and goes on to break the discussion down into the following sections:

Origin of traits–The discussion of intelligence testing is especially good.

Origin of knowledge–The author’s explanation of theories of infant development and psychology is handled well.

Origin of language–The cultural influence on language as part of its development is accurate and very readable.

Origin of thinking– The genetic influence is delved in depth.

Origin of feelings– Were feelings developed as a result of evolution?  The author considers this question.

Origin of Values– Are we born to be good? Another question the author contemplates.

Giving both animal and human studies and analogies, the author compiles an excellent and surprisingly readable textbook which has clever, even humorous examples, explanations, and asides throughout.  It is a serious study, but a pleasant reading experience.