On My Bookshelf

I finished these in December, so they don’t count towards my 75 in 2015 total. Yes, more non-fiction. . .

tumblr_inline_n0y45wl9NR1qd0l1gI Work At A Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan (2014)

From Amazon.com: Straight from the library–the strange and bizarre, ready to be checked out! From a patron’s missing wetsuit to the scent of crab cakes wafting through the stacks, I Work at a Public Library showcases the oddities that have come across Gina Sheridan’s circulation desk. Throughout these pages, she catalogs her encounters with local eccentrics as well as the questions that plague her, such as, “What is the standard length of eyebrow hairs?” Whether she’s helping someone scan his face onto an online dating site or explaining why the library doesn’t have any dragon autobiographies, Sheridan’s bizarre tales prove that she’s truly seen it all.

My thoughts: I work in the public library too and – like my cohorts worldwide – could easily fill a book with my own interesting, heartwarming, and down-right weird stories. This book was great fun. It is written as little tidbits/conversation snip-its and only took be around an hour to read. Great for an afternoon when you have just enough free time.

818Nt-CU4eLHand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado (2014)

From Amazon.com: We in America have certain ideas of what it means to be poor. Linda Tirado, in her signature brutally honest yet personable voice, takes all of these preconceived notions and smashes them to bits. She articulates not only what it is to be working poor in America (yes, you can be poor and live in a house and have a job, even two), but what poverty is truly like—on all levels. Frankly and boldly, Tirado discusses openly how she went from lower-middle class, to sometimes middle class, to poor and everything in between, and in doing so reveals why “poor people don’t always behave the way middle-class America thinks they should.”

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book for the first few chapters; after that I felt like Tirado was repeating herself – same story, different words. It is a great look at poverty in American though. I would recommend it.

41O3512AR4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness by Jack El-Hai (2007)

From Amazon.com: The Lobotomist explores one of the darkest chapters of American medicine: the desperate attempt to treat the hundreds of thousands of psychiatric patients in need of help during the middle decades of the twentieth century. Into this crisis stepped Walter Freeman, M.D., who saw a solution in lobotomy, a brain operation intended to reduce the severity of psychotic symptoms. Drawing on Freeman’s documents and interviews with Freeman’s family, Jack El-Hai takes a penetrating look at the life and work of this complex scientific genius.

My thoughts: I have a soft spot for books about mental illness, medical history, and insane asylums, so this seemed right up my alley. My biggest takeaway from the book? Well, I actually understood – for the first time – why the lobotomy took the mental health world by storm. It is very easy to look back now and scoff, but reading through the state of medical care and facilities at the time really makes you understand why people would grab ahold of anything that restored some hope of getting people out of lifetimes in asylums. That being said, I found the book a bit longwinded. The author kept going off on tangents – giving the backstory of other involved physicians, history of other techniques, etc. – that just seemed to be too much. And this is coming from a historian who enjoys medical history.

51Lg+VLc8-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ten Days In a Mad-House by Nellie Bly (1887)

From Amazon.com: Nellie Bly took an undercover journalist assignment to pretend to be insane to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at mental asylums. After a night of practicing deranged expressions in front of a mirror, she checked into a working-class boarding-house where she feigned insanity so well that everyone was convinced. She was then examined by several doctors, who all declared her to be insane, too. Committed to an asylum, Bly experienced its dire conditions firsthand: horrible spoiled food; the patients mistreated and abused; unclean and unsanitary conditions. Furthermore, speaking with her fellow patients, Bly was convinced that some were as sane as she was. After ten days, Bly was released from the asylum with her editor’s help and she published her experience in book form as Ten Days in a Mad-House. It caused a sensation and brought her lasting fame. More importantly, thanks to this book, living conditions for the insane were improved and funds for their care were increased.

My thoughts: First off, if you have never heard of Nellie Bly, know that she is fairly awesome, an investigative reporter well ahead of her time. Her report of life in an asylum compliments the lobotomy book actually. It is a shocking story, of course, and says as much about women’s history as it does about the history of mental illness. The particular version I read also included two short reports on young women working in the newly industrialized world. Don’t be turned off by the 1887 publication date, Bly has a casual writing style that bridges her time with ours. It was not daunting to read.

Bonus: You can read it online at the University of Pennsylvania.

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