Wednesday, November 2, 2022

An Open Book: October 2022 Reads

Happy All Souls Day, friends! With this beautiful feast, we also have yet another edition of An Open Book. My reading last month was mainly non-fiction, and some of them were extremely riveting. Let's dive in!

How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Drawing from her experience as a dean of freshman for a decade at Stanford, the author discusses the growing trend of "helicopter parenting," or "overparenting." It was fascinating (and sad) to see her observe how at the end of her job vs. the beginning, there was a huge increase in students who were not really prepared for living on their own. The author discusses ways to fight against this trend and raise our children so they can be competent, successful adults, and I liked how there was even a section or two with specific skills that children of different ages should be able to perform. I also liked the section on samples and suggestions on how to respond when other people question a resistance to overparenting. A big focus of the book was on college, and I thought it was interesting, but I was also a bit annoyed that there was an underlying assumption that college-immediately following high school-is necessary and the only path to take. I also do have some quibbles with the extreme overparenting examples in this book-I think it can be easy for people to see them and say, "well, I wouldn't do anything THAT drastic, so I'm definitely not overparenting and don't need to worry about a thing" when in fact, there are numerous small ways that we can "helicopter parent" to an unhealthy degree. Still, this was a good, insightful read!

The Burning, by Tim Madigan

This creative nonfiction book is about the 1921 massacre in Tulsa, when "white Tulsa" decimated Greenwood, the black community in north Tulsa. This book was heavily researched (notes in the back of the book detail that process), but as a CNF book, it reads like a gripping novel. The author goes into the backgrounds of many people who were involved in the massacre/race riot, the history and origin of the KKK, the foundation of Tulsa, and the many economic and political factors at play. This book was very well-written and absolutely horrifying. I think it's so important to learn about this history. I highly recommend it! 

Sid Meier's Memoir! A Life in Computer Games, by Sid Meier

I have spent many, many hours playing Sid Meier's Civilization game, so I was excited to see this book at the library! Meier takes the reader on his journey of game development, and discusses both the ups and downs, his successes and failures. While I didn't care for a couple of parts, I enjoyed learning about Meier's creative process and career. I also was interested to learn about concerns when making games that involve world leaders or the military--specifically regarding Germany. I don't think I'd pick up this book again, but it was a fun read! 

The Singing Tree, by Kate Seredy

Beautiful children's novel that follows Kate and her cousin, Jansci, as they grow up on a Hungarian farm. They begin the story immersed in the cares and joys of daily life: Jansci is given his own herd of horses and starts taking on more responsibilities, and Kate delights in being able to dress in several petticoats and be seen as more of a woman. However, their peaceful life is disrupted when World War I breaks out and the men of the village leave to fight, their farm houses a group of Russian prisoners, and as they care for German children. This was an engaging and beautiful story, and I loved it. It's a sequel to The Good Master, which I haven't read for several years, but I was able to follow the story (I do want to re-read The Good Master anyway!). 

Azalea, Unschooled, by Liza Kleinman

Eleven-year-old Azalea and her older sister travel from state to state as their dad bounces between odd jobs. The girls are homeschooled, but when the family moves to Maine, things begin to change. The girls and their mom head to a gathering about "unschooling," and their dad's new job-operating a tour bus-immediately has problems when a mysterious vandal strikes. Amid new friends and a budding "unschooling" adventure, Azalea sets out to solve the mystery so her family can have some stability and peace. I had been really intrigued to find a children's novel about unschooling, but I was honestly not impressed. I could not stand how the family was portrayed (the daughters banding together against their dad, or one daughter and her dad concealing certain truths from the mom), and the final resolution of the book was a bit unrealistic. Also, there is a HUGE theme in the book about how "unschooling" is not "homeschooling." As in, certain characters repeatedly decry "homeschooling" because "unschooling is better," and I think it's just plain silly to do that, and giggled at those moments (as well as when the super-unschooling mom character who goes by "Spirit" is full-on New Age hippie and hosts a full moon party).  I don't really recommend this one, though I am glad that someone out there is trying to normalize alternative modes of schooling as portrayed in literature! 

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, by Stephen Puleo

I recently learned about the Molasses Flood and was excited to find this comprehensive discussion of this tragic event. (according to the author's introduction, there is not much written about the Molasses Flood, so he decided to fix that problem) The author brings to life the people and circumstances surrounding the Molasses Flood, as well as the legal aftermath of the event, and it is fascinating. While a bit more scholarly in tone, this book is still very engaging and the author crafts scenes that help the reader to really enter into the time period. It's really good, but it was hard to read some of the scenes where the author details the ways in which people died (nearly two dozen deaths were attributed to the flood, and many more people were injured). My kids even talk about the Molasses Flood sometimes now, simply because they hear me talk about it all the time to people! This is a piece of fascinating, horrific, and important history that most of us have probably never heard of, and I highly recommend this book! 

Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte

Observing how the loss of her family's fortune has distressed her father, Agnes Grey decides that she will become a governess. Not only does she want to send money to her family, but she also realizes that this will be a good opportunity to "prove herself." She finds a position with a family that, she is told, is nice and has sweet children, and Agnes optimistically goes off to work for them. Cue horror music. Reportedly, Bronte drew from her own experiences as a governess for this book, which makes sense; this story is really good and very real and raw. It was short, simple, and lovely, and I find myself wondering (not for the first time) why Anne Bronte is ignored in so many high school English classes. 

Thanks for joining me this month! If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments! 


  1. Well, now I have to read The Dark Tide. For all my fascination with it, I haven't read a good book about The Molasses Flood.

    1. I hope you enjoy it! It was really interesting, especially to learn about all of the little things that contributed to that tragedy. I'm thankful that our library had a copy!

  2. I've got to read Dark Tide! I'm totally intrigued--I've never heard of the Molasses Flood. I loved Agnes Grey!