H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald
sounds like a Sue Grafton mystery about a malicious falconer. I’ve never read a Sue Grafton novel, although a quick Amazon search informs me that her “H” was for Homicide
H is for Hawk is (mostly) a memoir, though, dealing simultaneously with the training of a goshawk, the death of Macdonald’s father, and the biographical details of T.H. White. Memoir isn’t a genre that I naturally gravitate towards, but this was the type of book that you read extremely slowly, savoring the beautiful prose and the seemingly disparate narrative threads that knit together in gorgeous and unexpected ways.
The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads
by Daniel Willingham had none of the compelling prose of H is for Hawk.
I didn’t read the whole thing and couldn’t interest my wife in it either despite the fact that the topic is firmly in both of our respective wheelhouses. Still, the chapters on “Reading Identity” and “Reading After the Digital Revolution” were enormously valuable for both educators and parents.
Reading identity is largely socially constructed, WIllingham’s research shows, and it plays a significant role in a child’s motivation to choose reading as a viable way to spend his or her time. Also, screens aren’t really changing our brains–but they may be changing our threshold for boredom. If you’re in education or have a young child, it’s worth skimming Willingham to see whether there’s something actionable to take away from it.
Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx
by Stefan Kefer was a insightful look at the insanity that was the Marx Brothers. It was particularly interesting how informed their entire schtick was by their early success in vaudeville, and how little their personal lives differed from their stage personas. One producer made the mistake of making the Marx Brothers wait in his office while he dealt with another client, only to return to find them all naked, crouching around a fire in his fireplace, roasting potatoes on sticks. Hundreds of small anecdotes like these made Groucho
so fascinating and enjoyable.