First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower 4 stars
Hardcore history nerds will like this one. It contains so much information — about the presidents, about how a White House is run, and of course, about our first ladies. I definitely feel like the author had some favorites here (Michelle doesn’t come off great here, but man, I have some new love for Pat Nixon), but I learned a lot about EVERYONE and came away with some newfound respect for these women and their position. I loved hearing about how they helped and continued to help each other in and out of the public spotlight. Also, the Carters are the bomb.
Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (And Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Any More) by Hadley Freeman 4 stars
Like many of y’all have said, your mileage will vary on this one, depending on how closely your favorite 80s movies match up with Freeman’s. Luckily, mine synced up pretty well, and I really liked this one. I read it on a beach. It was a great book to read on a beach. It gets a little heavy in spots, talking about how the studio system and the stars have changed (spoiler alert: apparently it’s all China’s fault), but I liked her insights and loved her quotes and lists. Also, if you haven’t read As You Wish by Cary Elwes, go do that right now.
Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman 3 stars
I started out really liking this one, and got bored about halfway through. Like Life Moves Pretty Fast, your enjoyment will depend on your interest in the selections that Offerman made. I loved the first few — some founding fathers, Frederick Douglass, Willie Nelson, Carol Burnett. But some of them, the more obscure ones (plus Yoko Ono), sort of gave me the sense that Offerman just wanted to have an excuse to interview some of his heroes. Or talk about his friends. And while I loved listening to his narration (very passionate and funny), and some of his life truths about wood-working and farming made sense to me, I started to sort of tune out after a while.
Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson 4 stars
Nerdy things I say out loud: “So I’m listening to this new book by that guy who wrote that great book about cholera!”. But I really do love Steven Johnson. Wonderland, like How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, traces how certain things lead to and affected others. Specifically, in this instance, he’s looking at how forms of entertainment created ripples that turned into waves throughout history. Like, a taste for purple dye led to fancy fabrics led to cotton led to the slave trade. Or tracing the line from illusions to seances to Walt Disney. It’s a very interesting book, and he never fails to excite the nerd in me.