Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Reading List

Hello Everyone,

After much research, soul-searching, contemplating the nature of Kami's reading habits (trust me--picking fiction that she will like and find "meaty" is one of the great pleasures and challenges of my life), and thinking about the reasons Kami and I started this blog, I came up with an UPDATED READING LIST that contains much more fiction. Check it out now.

So--starting Monday, we are officially into Milkweed by Spinelli, followed by The Secret Life of Bees, and then Fermat's Enigma. I tried to incorporate at least a few choices from everyone while staying true to my bossy, autocratic nature--meaning the sheer joy I get from trying to coerce people into doing what I want them to do (Kami resists better than most, darn her, but she fell in line with my list when I asserted a little pressure).

In summary, I think we have a great line-up. Thanks for all your input. I hope you still love me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Great List of Books

Hi (again!).
I just wanted to say (after giving all of my opinions on books to read in the future) that I am really looking forward to the list that we now have (to the left). Great selections! So, thank you Kami & Andrea for that!!
Enough said!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Last of My Book Suggestions

I PROMISE!! This is the last you'll hear from me on book suggestions (at least for a little while).

THESE are books on my "To Read" list (meaning: books I have not read yet) - - but you Rasmussens may have read them all and maybe even more than once! So, I apologize ahead of time. :-)

The African Queen - Forester

Founding Mothers - Cokie Roberts

North and South - Gaskill

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! - Schlitz

The Wednesday Wars - Schmidt (reading now)

Scarlett Pimpernell - (seen movie, not read book)

The Hero and the Crown - McKinley

Courage of Sarah Noble - Dalgliesh

The Railway Children - E. Nesbit

The House of Sixty Fathers - DeJong

Just So Stories - Kipling

Peace Like a River - ?

AND, the book I told you about the Chinese ladies is called "Wild Swans" by Jung Chang

And, again, my vote is for the Econmics in One Lesson book.

Happy Reading!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

My bookish ideas

Well, I thought about what light books I may want to read, and I am decidedly lacking. I usually just ask Andrea or Kayli for recommendations. Anyway, I agree with what Andrea said about Julie's list--most of those books I've already read. Although the fact that Andrea hasn't read the Whipping Boy should put it on the list. I've never read Onion John either. The House of Seven Gables I read back in sixth grade, but I wouldn't mind reading it again. Around the World in Eighty Days would be okay with me too.

From Andrea's list these looked the most appealing: The Thief Lord (Paperback), by Cornelia Funke, Anahita's Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres and The Sherwood Ring - Elizabeth Marie Pope

And Carry On, Mr. Bowditch" by Jean Lee Latham was actually on my list of books to read, so I'm all for that.

Other than that, I don't have much to add. Well, I would like to add Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl and I think for an economics book I agree with Andrea that I think Understanding the Process of Economic Change (Princeton Economic History of the Western World)by Douglass C. North would be a good overview, plus the other one I was leaning towards wad 900+ pages and this is only 200 and something. :) However, I would still like to add Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond to our list too. That's not really an economics one anyway. See, I'm not very good at picking light reading. That's probably why I'll never get through my list of books to read.

Book Suggestions

Me, vague? Surely you jest! :-)

So here are my suggestions:

"Economics in One Lesson" (Hazlitt) is my choice for the Economics book. I might also recommend "The Richest Man in Babylon" by George S. Clason.
Other books:
"Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank
"An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott
"Carry On, Mr. Bowditch" by Jean Lee Latham
"Cheaper by the Dozen" by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbeth Carey (not the movie - i prefer the original)
"Little Britches" by Ralph Moody
"Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry

of Julia's books I am choosing books that I have not read before and am interested in:
The House of Seven Gables - Hawthorne
The Search for Delicious - Babbitt
Onion John -
Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo
Crispin - Avi
The Wheel on the School -
Invincible Louisa (about Louisa May Alcott)

I will read just about anything!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book Choosing

Kelly--you were too vague. Look through the list Ju posted and I posted and then post your top choices from those lists and whatever else you want to add.

Kami--you too.

Ju--look through mine and do the same.

Take your time--we already have a good list, although Kami and I want more fiction interspersed.

Point--we need more specific suggestions, and it doesn't have to be this week, so think about what you want to get out of this and then post it.

I'm done bossing you around for the evening. I'm going to bed!


After reading Kelly's post, I thought we should add a book on economics to our list (the bottom of the list). So I looked up a few and I wanted everyone's opinion on which they thought would be best to read (of course if you have another one that would be better, feel free to add it). Here's my list:

The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else by Hernando de Soto

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (okay not so much an economics book, but still looks fascinating--Pulitzer Prize winner)

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen (a Nobel Prize winner in economics)

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly (again, not so much about economics, still looks interesting, although the reviews I read criticized the writing as being too "saleable" and not enough intellect).

Fair Trade for All: How Trade Can Promote Development (Initiative for Policy Dialogue Series C)by Joseph E. Stiglitz (mostly about free trade and the WTO)

Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)by Avner Greif (Ok, so I admit that anything that has to do with ancient civilizations is going to be on my list)

Understanding the Process of Economic Change (Princeton Economic History of the Western World)by Douglass C. North (better reviewed than the one above and along the same lines--another Nobel Prize winner in economics author)

Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market (Scholars Edition)by Murray N. Rothbard (supposed to be a good overview of economics)

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)by Henry Hazlitt (supposed to be a simple, fast book about the basics of economics)

Okay this was way longer than I intended and took far too much time out of my day when I need to be doing other things. However, in all my searching I found this list on Amazon, that probably has better books than I listed here. So maybe just check that list out instead and see what you think.

Oh, I also think we should add a few more "light" books into our mix to break things up a bit more--like some YA fiction or just more fiction in general. I don't have any ideas though. Anyone?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Sad Lack of Statesmen in our World (and other thoughts)

Well, I have finished this book (quite awhile ago, actually) and would like to get it off my nightstand! Thus, here are my thoughts on H.W. Brands' "The Devil We Knew: Americans and the Cold War"

My general opinion of the book was agreement with Brands. There were non-essential ideas and statements that I disagree with. But as they don’t detract from the overall message of the book, I won’t go into them here.

“The Devil We Knew” was a fine example of the well-known statement by poet and philosopher George Santayana that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Brands’ excursion through 50 years of American history illustrates that concept quite well. I think an argument could be made that we are repeating many historical mistakes right now in Iraq. I think Kami mentioned that, and it was a thought I had as well as I read through this book. Frustrating!!!!

“The fact is that communism – not capitalism or democracy – has been the communists’ worst enemy. But nations have had to discover this for themselves. External force has usually succeeded only in delaying the discovery” (Brands 227). Brands cites the U.S. involvement and support of Chiang Kai-shek in China to support this statement. It seems intuitive to me that if communism is really as evil as we believe, and seeing as how our country is based upon the idea of moral people being able to make good choices regarding government, then it follows that given enough time, the citizens in communist countries will eventually create enough momentum for a successful revolution.

A second point that Brands made that I quite agreed with was in regard to foreign policy in dealing with third world dictators. I thought he was correct in stating that their threat is minimal and that giving them the attention of our high level officials only lends credibility to their words. What they want is attention – and we routinely give them exactly what they want.

I found the economic impact of the Cold War to be extremely fascinating. It is obvious to me that many of our politicians make economic decisions based, not on a true understanding of economics, but on popularity polls. Always keeping re-election in mind inhibits politicians from becoming statesmen. The economic “expansion” that took place during the Cold War was mostly a mirage. The evidence lies in the inflation rate as well as our soaring national debt. As World War II ended the government tried to stem off the inevitable recession (caused by a sudden decrease in demand for goods) by creating need (which was funded by tax dollars in the form of American aid to foreign countries).

“The American economy, in 1945 the envy of the earth and the engine of global growth unprecedented in history, by the 1990s sputtered and faltered under the weight of four decades of military spending inconceivable before the Cold War” Brands 227).

The economy runs in cycles. Trying to stop a cycle from completing is like trying to dam a river with newspaper. It can work, but not forever. Of course, with their eyes on re-election and popularity polls, our elected officials aren’t willing to let things run. They must be doing something to justify their existence! The media attributes current economic cycles to the current president – which is extremely short-sighted and ignorant of them. And all too often American citizens feed right into that and demand action from their elected officials. I had to think of the movie “Men In Black” (forgive me for quoting a movie), when the Tommy Lee Jones character says, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Everything they've ever "known" has been proven to be wrong.” So true!

My final favorite quote from the book is this: “However bright, determined, and forceful the individuals who make up a president’s team are when they arrive in Washington, they soon discover that all their gifts are no match for the fact that only one person in the administration wields real power. Few presidents are secure enough in this power to genuinely appreciate counsel contrary to their inclinations. Even fewer advisers are willing to accept the designated-devil’s-advocate status that accompanies consistent objection. With everyone else, presidents like to hear that they are doing the right thing, and advisers quickly learn that influence rubs off on those who tell presidents what they like to hear” (Brands 82-3). It’s a long quote, but telling. The sign of a good leader – a statesman – is one who admires a person with the guts to tell it like it is.

So there we have a few of the thoughts I had while reading "The Devil We Knew". I am glad we had an opportunity to read this! It was a little dry at times but I thought the ideas were good and gave me some food for thought. I have finished "Milkweed" and hope to get some thoughts down on paper this week, if time permits. I have company coming next week and I thought it would be nice to have "no homework" for a little while! :-)

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Hello Everyone,

Just wanted to update you on the status of our book group. I am half-way through The Devil We Knew, and it will probably take another week (at least) for me to get done and all the words I didn't know looked up. :) So far I have really enjoyed it and learned a lot. Are either of you two reading it? Just want to know about when we will be moving on. No rush.