Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ArmChair Birder

The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds, by John Yow

The Armchair Birder is about a niche topic that is written so well, and with such charm and wit,  it would captivate the most bird-indifferent imagination. For birders, especially the casual and recreational, Yow is the bee's knees. 
The great thing about Yow’s book is that it’s all about familiar birds—what we see and hear about everyday, not the exotic. Bluejays, woodpeckers, mourning doves, eagles, wild turkeys, owls. 

The anecdotes alone make for a memoir not soon forgotten. Yow talks about bird feelings and behaviors— as if they were humans, almost! Such a colorful array of bird personalities was fun to read about, as if the birds themselves were talking to Yow and sharing all their secrets. 

The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal: The Secret Lives of Birds of the Southeastern Shore, by  John Yow

The sequel to The Armchair Birder, The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal was another success. Yow's great wit and dry humor strikes again! 

I will NEVER judge seagulls the same way again— I feel like I’ve been much too hard on them. Yow wrote the most sympathetic chapter on seagulls, it made me feel like a bad person. 

Aren't you curious, now? 

Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports, by Susan Ware 

This is one of those books about a legend— the whole time you’re reading it you’re thinking, “Wow, Billie Jean is AWESOME.”

Game Set Match is a biography about Billie Jean King, the woman who "made" women’s tennis, and helped bring the world’s attention to women’s sports. 

She was also a closeted lesbian for a long time, and then later came out, before it was the least bit fashionable. Balls! 

A great under-dog story, fantastic build up, with a satisfying end! 

 Border War: Fighting Over Slavery Before the Civil War, by Stanley Harrold

If you’ve ever seen a popular film or TV series about the Civil War, this book is catnip. 

Border War delves into how the border southern states had the highest slave runaway rates, so they came up with the most bizarre laws to stop it, and the ensuing struggles and debates were ferocious. 

There's plenty of action, and the "back-in-the-day" atrocities are entertaining, if you have the stomach for it. 

Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth- Century United States, by Kristin Celello

This book that really blows the lid off of the whole divorce “crisis.” 

Remember Laura Kipnis’ Love Polemic?  It was a diatribe of romance and monogamy,  but Making Marriage Work is a great balance— tremendous research and investigation, but it’s not out there to judge you. 

It has a wealth of information that will make you think about how the idea of marriage has evolved and been changed by political, environmental, religious, and cultural influences. This is a book that will be nodded to for a long time to come. 

Work is about how marriage has been defined not nearly so much by romance as by labor… a wonderfully provocative idea.

The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss, by Charles W. Eagles

This book is like the “college” of Remember the Titans, (2000) with Denzel Washington. Too bad he couldn't narrate! 

The Price of Defiance sets the scene of the white college life in Mississippi during the early 1960s: beauty queens, sororities & fraternities, keg parties, football, etc. Might sound familiar to a lot of colleges today? Except only white students were allowed to enroll at the University of Mississippi, or as they called it, Ole Miss. 

Everything hit the fan with the integration push in 1962 to allow African Americans to enroll at Ole Miss— a total page turner with awesome heroes to cheer for! 

James Meredith was the first African American to enroll at Ole Miss, and the day before the first day of school was so explosive, there ended up being fatal riots. 
The children and grandchildren of alumni during those years can recount the stories, it completely impacted the community, even generations later. 

Author Charles Eagles, a Mississippi historian, writes Defiance like a screenplay— great plots, characters, action. Is there a movie deal yet? 

Not to be missed! 

Music From the True Vine: Mike Seeger’s Life and Musical Journey, by Bill C. Malone

An audiobook for music-lovers. Mike Seeger, founding member of the influential folk revival band New Lost City Ramblers, along with his brother Pete Seeger ("We Shall Overcome") transformed American music, from the grass roots up. 

From the Introduction, by Bill C. Malone: 

Who is Mike Seeger? 

 I was asked that question far too often after mentioning that I was writing his biography. And a second question frequently followed: "Is he related to Pete Seeger?" Trying not to show my irritation, I generally responded with, "Yes, he's his half brother, but he's a much more talented musican than Pete." 

It is difficult to provide an adequate conversational, sound-bite assessment of Mike, though, when most people are very aware of the almost iconic status that his brother Pete occupies in American popular culture. Mike, on the other hand, always went about his work quietly and mostly below the radar of public recognition. 

But there’s not an American folk or country music fan, there’s not one American rock or pop critic, who hasn’t paid homage to this man or fallen in love with his many songs and musicial discoveries.  

Finally we have a biography that has all the humor, warmth, and campfire-style story telling that marks everything Seeger has been involved with turn into legend. 

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