What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading November 17, 2014

Occasionally I post what we’re reading in my house. We cannot ever read just one book at a time.

What Niki is reading.


*I started Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything when it came out in mid-September. Like her other books (No Logo and Shock Doctrine) I practically will her to be wrong about her subject matter. After carefully scrutinizing her sources and footnotes, I cannot but follow her to her conclusions. In the case of this book, I found myself so depressed and panicked by the introduction alone that I couldn’t read it before it bed (when most of my quiet, focused reading occurs). I would end up wide awake having panic attacks in bed, dreading the future we have wrought for my children.

So I took some time away from the book. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. I will finish it. And I will write a much longer review when that happens. So far, this is recommended reading.

*The Deities are Many: A Polytheist Theology by Jordan Paper was recommended to me by Patheos Pagan editor Christine Hoff Kraemer. Already this slim book is knocking out vestiges of monotheist thinking. Theology is so central to monotheist thinking and religious development that most of us in Western civilization can’t fathom that most of the rest of the world doesn’t think like this. I am certainly guilty of this assumption! I’m not very far in, but so far I recommend this book.

*The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years by Rebecca Hains. I have a nearly 4 year old girl who loves princesses. Thankfully we do not watch tv, nor frequent a lot of mainstream stores, so princess obsession has been kept to a minimum. However, her engagement in preschool does reinforce some of the princess stuff since many kids have lots of branded clothing, toys, lunch boxes, and so on. We took the kids to see Disney’s Frozen last year, resulting in a fair amount of Anna and Elsa play. She and her brother made up a brother figure, Dragon, so he can play along. My daughter is always, always Elsa; I get to be Anna. My daughter loves the ice powers!

This book is a straight forward take on the ubiquity of princesses in marketing, entertainment, and the imaginations of little girls. Most of this information is stuff I’ve already been aware of, but the details seem to get worse every time I dive into this subject matter. The book has a lot of techniques to help families navigate this assault on little girls. Thankfully, my family is already doing most of what Hain suggests: starting young with media literacy, not purchasing a lot of branded items, avoiding advertising, talking with your kids about what they are watching and reading, and so on.

*C.S. Lewis’ Til We Have Faces. It’s a retelling of the Psyche and Eros myth. It’s one of my all time favorite novels. If you haven’t read it, go and find it. It is beautiful and haunting.

*Jacobin Magazine. A well-written, classy socialist magazine. I originally started reading them online. In fact, they are putting out some of the best stuff on the internet right now. I decided to subscribe so I could get more of their long form articles and to support their cause. It’s a nice companion to my Economist subscription.

For the kids:

What the kids are reading.
What the kids are reading.

*All the Strega Nona books, and some others, by Tommie de Paola. These simple books are actually really great lessons in witchcraft. No, really. Plus, they are charming.

*Rainbow Magic Fairy Books. This one is Pearl the Cloud Fairy. They are banal, but sweet. My daughter loves them. I refuse to read the ones about shopping fairies (yes, those actually exist) and so on. The ones we’ve read have featured two friends who work together with the fairies to save the day against the tricky Jack Frost. They aren’t horrible, but they aren’t great either.

*Pokémon. I have a six year old boy. It is all Pokémon, all the time in our house: graphic novels, trading cards, drawing them, looking them up on the virtual Pokedex, and watching the cartoons. I don’t mind them, and I like the creativity they’ve inspired in my kids, but it is nonstop around here. And now Pokémon has invaded my blog!

*Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. We are almost done with this book. I’ll admit, it’s a fun page turner. People seem to love these books. I think they are the Dan Brown/Da Vinci Code of young adult writing. I find myself cringing at much of the writing, the gimmicky take on the gods, the uneven plot, and the horribly trite dialog. No, young adult fiction doesn’t have to be epic literature, but there is certainly much, much better writing out there for kids. This series might get kids into mythology, but so will just reading mythology.

My son loves the book, though. He can’t wait to find out what happens next. Thankfully, he can read the books himself, because this is the only one I’ll read. After we finish it, I’m done with Riordan. Good riddance.

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  • The only way I survived the dark journey Klein takes us on was to go to my forest and be sad. Of course, then I started thinking about it dying, which made me even more sad. Rough book, like the nigredo in alchemy or dark night of the soul.
    But now I’m full of ideas. 🙂

    • I will admit that I am annoyed at myself that you are beating me to the review punch. Mostly because I’m pretty sure you’ll say everything I want to, only better. 😉

      • If your review’s done by the 24th, I could link to it on mine. 🙂

      • Also, Halstead’s been reading it, too. I wonder if he’s writing a review?

  • Andrew F.

    I’ve been impressed with the quality of the work coming out of Jacobin as well, to the point of considering a subscription to the physical version. Maybe it’ll be a Christmas present to myself. 🙂