Messy House, Messy Minds?

March 2, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 6 Comments

This article on Slate claims a link between household order and young children’s interest in reading.  I imagine this theory will capture your attention as much as it did mine, especially if you happen to be a parent.

It’s been said that I read more than average.  I’m not sure how my childhood would mesh into this particular study.   Dinnertime might be anywhere between 6 and 11 PM, and bedtime depended on what was on TV that night.  Our housekeeping, on a spectrum between the cover of Architectural Digest and a special episode of Oprah, would lean toward the Oprah end.  Factor in a couple of random events, such as a neighbor passing out drunk on the couch with a lit cigarette and nearly burning down the entire apartment complex, and let’s just say ‘orderly’ would not best describe my childhood home environment.

Why did I turn into such an obsessive reader?  I can only remember being interested in books from about age 4, when I was already habitually begging for particular titles.  I really have no idea what my parents did before that point.  My brothers didn’t turn out like me in this respect.

I will say that my house is quite orderly now – now that I live alone, that is.  There’s always somewhere to sit and I know where all my books are, among other factors.  Since getting my own place and not needing roommates, I have read more than ever before.  So maybe there is a link between household order and reading.  It seems to me, though, that the more literate the people I know, the less orderly their houses tend to be.


“Nothing to Fear”

March 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Posted in History, Nonfiction | Leave a comment

My man Rocket Scientist convinced me to read Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America, by Adam Cohen.  Usually it’s the other way around – I am constantly hounding him to read things I liked, which is tough because I read approximately 25 times more than he does.  This time, he beat me to it.

We study history, as Santayana tells us, so that we won’t be doomed to repeat it.  Nothing to Fear is positively eerie in how familiar it makes those first months of 1932.  People losing their life’s savings due to poorly regulated financial institutions?  Check.  Rising rates of unemployment?  Check.  A publicly vilified lame duck president slinking out of office to make way for a tremendously popular new president?  Check.  It goes on.

If you follow current events at all, you’ll find this book a real page-turner.  Cohen explores FDR’s ground-breaking policies in enough detail that a layperson can understand the problem as well as the solution.  FDR brought together cabinet members from different ends of the political spectrum, and somehow got them to work together.  Together they hammered together a practical plan, rather than arguing over ideology and party platforms.  (Well, they did that a little).  There are a lot of lessons here that could contribute to solving today’s headliner issues.  After all, we’ve been here before.

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