Friday, January 24, 2014

Weekly Book Post: Cinderella Ate My Daughter, What Money Can't Buy, The Burning Bridge, and The One and Only Ivan


This week I finished four more books, and started a few more as well.  The new additions to the currently reading pile: The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person, Gone Girl, and Growing Souls.  

And here are the books I finished this week:

Cinderalla Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein has caught my eye in many bookstores - how could it not with that great title and the frothy pink cover?  Now I finally found time to read it, and I'm glad I did.  The Disney Princesses, Barbie, Bratz, Wonder Woman, Twilight, and more are analyzed and critiqued by Orenstein, a feminist child of the 70's now trying to raise a young daughter.  She also looks to current research, interviews marketing executives, internet website designers, and more.  It's a fascinating discussion, but never preachy or too self-righteous.  Here the culture is critiqued, but not completely rejected, and the path she recommends for parents to take is very much a middle path.  I liked the book very much.

What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel encapsulated something that has been increasingly bothering me, namely that our lives have become too commercialized and the way we eat, the way we dress, the toys we buy our kids are all based on such heavy consumerism.  Sandel, a political philosopher and professor at Harvard, explains this as "market triumphalism":

"... without quite realizing it, without ever deciding to do so, we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society.  The difference is this: A market economy is a tool -- a valuable and effective tool -- for organizing productive activity.  A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor.  It's a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market."

Throughout the book, Sandel presents cases where the market is intruding into areas of life which were previously governed by a different norm: waiting in line, procreative rights, naming rights, access to medical care, and more.  His analysis makes the economic argument clear to me, as well as the moral, ethical, and social issues.  The only flaw with the book is that it gets repetitive, with the same conclusion about the over-reach of economic-thinking being written over and over again after each example.

Then the two children's literature books the kids and I listened to in the car this week:

The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan is the second book in his sprawling Ranger's Apprentice series, and it is my opinion that the first two books are the best.  This adventure finds young Will off on a diplomatic trip to neighboring Celtica, only to discover that the country has been invaded by their mutual enemy Molgarath and his mind-controled Wargols.  Will heroically foils the invasion plans, but subsequently gets captured by Skandian raiders and hauled away on a wolf ship, a true cliff-hanger ending meaning that we will have to listen to the next book in the series too.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is the story of a silverback gorilla living in a mall.  The story is loosely based on true events that happened in our area.  My kids didn't want to listen to this one, because they were afraid it would be too sad, but I had heard so much good stuff about this book I insisted.  In the end, they loved the book - it's sweet and funny, and although there is some sadness it is handled lightly and deftly.  A truly lovely book.

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