On My Bookshelf

The Johnstown Flood by David McCulloughjohnstown

From Amazon.com: The history of civil engineering may sound boring, but in David McCullough’s hands it is, well, riveting. His award-winning histories of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal were preceded by this account of the disastrous dam failure that drowned Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. Written while the last survivors of the flood were still alive, McCullough’s narrative weaves the stories of the town, the wealthy men who owned the dam, and the forces of nature into a seamless whole. His account is unforgettable: “The wave kept on coming straight toward him, heading for the very heart of the city. Stores, houses, trees, everything was going down in front of it, and the closer it came, the bigger it seemed to grow…. The height of the wall of water was at least thirty-six feet at the center…. The drowning and devastation of the city took just about ten minutes.” A powerful, definitive book, and a tribute to the thousands who died in America’s worst inland flood. –Mary Ellen Curtin

Confession: I’ve never finished a book by David McCullough (until this one). Are you going to take my historian card away? His books are good, but feel bloated to me and I lose interest about halfway through. This one is shorter and – helpful for me – I listened to the audiobook. A very interesting story about an event I knew little of.

Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess LovejoyimagesCAYLO1UJ

From Amazon.com: But for some of the most influential figures in history, death marked the start of a new adventure. The famous deceased have been stolen, burned, sold, pickled, frozen, stuffed, impersonated, and even filed away in a lawyer’s office. Their fingers, teeth, toes, arms, legs, skulls, hearts, lungs, and nether regions have embarked on voyages that crisscross the globe and stretch the imagination. Counterfeiters tried to steal Lincoln’s corpse. Einstein’s brain went on a cross-country road trip. And after Lord Horatio Nelson perished at Trafalgar, his sailors submerged him in brandy—which they drank. From Mozart to Hitler, Rest in Pieces connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses, and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death.

A fun, easy read. This is the kind of thing I love. I think the book could have used some photographs though; it would be nice to see some of these odd gravesites Lovejoy writes about. I bought this book because I – rightly – thought I would like to add it to my collection. This may have been a mistake. The book is tall and about half the width of a traditional book (maybe to resemble a coffin?). The shape made is awkward to hold with one hand while curled up on the couch with cocoa in the other hand. It might have been a better choice for me to get the ebook. [I read this one for my Facebook book club, The Swashbooklers.]

Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body by Lesley KinzelTwo_Whole_Cakes_large

From Amazon.com: In the age of The Biggest Loser and the “war on obesity,” we’re pressured to conform to certain body standards at any cost. Sure, everyone should eat right and get exercise, but what if you do that and you still don’t fit into the clothes at the mall? In Two Whole Cakes, Fatshionista extraordinaire Lesley Kinzel tells stories, gives advice, and challenges stereotypes about being and feeling fat. Kinzel says no to diet fads and pills, shows by example how to stop hating your body, celebrates self-acceptance at any size, and urges you to finally accept the truth: your body is not a tragedy!

Lesley Kinzel has been on my radar for a while – all the way back to my goth auction sites and Livejournal days. I meant to buy this book when it first came out, but I procrastinated as usual. I’m happy to have added it to my collection now though, to support Kinzel if nothing else. A great read about size acceptance and body politics.

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