Noodle’s Extremely Succinct Summation of the 20 Democratic Presidential Candidates Based on Their Books

Yes, Book Corner was on a little bit of a hiatus, as I undertook a little reading side project.  Kindle lets you sample books for free.  I decided to sample the/a book of each of the (then) TWENTY Democratic presidential candidates, in alphabetical order; and see if there were any that I felt I could stomach reading in their entirety.  Surprisingly, there were quite a few.  But I’m a pushover for memoir.

Note that the length of samples on Kindle varies wildly.  Sometimes I would barely get through an introduction before they’d cut me off.  Other times I wondered if I had accidentally bought the whole book.

Here are my extremely brief opinions based on mostly extremely brief samples.

Bennet – (I know, Who?) – Seems to have an interesting background with a mix of business & government experience.

Biden – idyllic 1950s Catholic childhood.

Booker – emphasis on how he “stands on the shoulders of giants”.

Buttigieg – Very interesting introduction, not about him, but about his Midwestern ex-factory town having gone bust.  This one is in my top 5 to read entirely.

Castro – Beginning is all about his Mexican immigrant orphaned grandmother’s childhood migration experience.  Wait a minute, I might have mixed this one up with Herbert.

DeBlasio – no book.

Delaney – Proud to have been voted Congress’ third-most bipartisan member!  Yay!  I’m all about the aisle-reaching.

Gabbard – Has a book… but no sample, for some reason.  It is possible the book is too short for a sample to be monetarily feasible for Amazon.

Gillibrand – Big on the feminist woman stuff.

Harris – All about her superstar independent Indian mom.

Hickenlooper – Surprisngly dull, considering he has a background in running brewpubs.  Writing style is very digressive, and the story contains lots of relationship crap about his marital troubles.

Herbert – (I know, Who?) – See Castro

Inslee – A TOTALLY different book from the others, about climate change.

Klobuchar – Midwestern Swiss grandparents.

Ryan – Mindfulness.  Ugh.

Sanders – Surprisingly one of the most interesting ones, considering I have no time for his one-note socialism  But he’s got that New Yorker-turned-Vermonter thing going on, so as a memoir, I’m into it.

Warren – Wow.  I’ll come back to this one.

Williamson – Louise Hay 2020!!!

Yang – Off topic.  WAY off topic.

And I’m leaving one out.  I forget who, someone else besides De Blasio who didn’t have a book.  Oh – must have been Swalwell.  Who’s out, anyway.

The one book I am definitely going back to is Elizabeth Warren’s.  This one’s a game changer.  I had not much interest in her before, as a candidate – I respected her Trump barbs and courage and outspokenness in Congress, but policy-wise, she just seemed like Sanders Lite.  Well, I’m hooked now.  I’ve left Team Biden – he is just going to majorly screw up somewhere along the way and lose the election, is my fear… I’m Team Warren now.  She makes me feel how lucky I am to have been born when and where I was, a time and place (and genetics and parents) that enabled me to launch myself into the middle class and beyond quite easily.  Now I see how the young and even not-so-young people of today don’t have it that easy.  I used to think it was all a big sob story…. but kind of like when I read Grapes of Wrath, this book is making me actually see the error or my ways.  Not many books do that.

 

 

Book Corner 2019.30

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Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks ****

This message can’t get out there enough.  If there is one idea with which the whole of my being resonates, it is that compassion and understanding are the way forward from the current unspeakable mess that we have lately made of this country, which is the shame of my generation.

Brooks’ message has a lot in common with that of my boyfriend* Jonathan Haidt, of THE RIGHTEOUS MIND and THE CODDLING OF THE AMERICAN MIND.  In fact he quotes and draws on Haidt’s words and research.  I recommend the above as companion volumes, particularly RIGHTEOUS MIND.

I will be looking out for Brooks’ column in the Washington Post from now on.

* Jonathan Haidt is not actually my boyfriend.  I use this term whenever I am madly in love with a particular author’s work.

 

Book Corner 2019.29

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The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, with help

1/2

Snapshots from his efforts to introduce a small herd of wild “problem” elephants into his South African game reserve. My experiences with “problem” goats had me relating very much to many of these incidents; sympathizing wholeheartedly with members rejected by the herd and babies born deformed; and seeing the same emotions and smarts we attribute to ourselves in our fellow mammals. We’re all cut from the same cloth.

Anthony’s descriptions of ‘communicating’ with his herd do not devolve into the unbelievable or anthropomorphizing – though many of his brink-of-disaster stories do sound almost unbelievable; still, I feel they were too crazy for someone to have risked making up. His descriptions of the Zulus who inhabit the country with him are fairly even-handed; they are portrayed as individuals, but it’s always a fine line, and they do always feel a bit “other”.

Anthony develops relationships with this herd because they come to him with problems that must be overcome – they need to learn to trust him and accept his reserve as their new home. Ultimately, though, the saddest part of the book is the end where we are reminded rather suddenly that Anthony is really running a game reserve, not a petting zoo. His reserve is a place for wild animals to live wild. Thus, he develops no relationships with the newer additions to the elephant family. Presumably he does not even give names to the new babies anymore. That felt sad, but right.

 

Book Corner 2019.28

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Happy by Derren Brown

**

This book didn’t make me happy. Frankly I skimmed a lot of it. I thought it was going to be a kind of self-help guide to applying Stoic principles to a normal everyday life. But lots and lots of it was the author’s personal feelings about fame and his weird psychoanalytic digressions on relationships. Derren Brown apparently has some small amount of fame in the UK as a magician of sorts. So we get to hear about how he feels about that. I didn’t care. Nothing he said about relationships ever really resonated with me. And when it was actually about applying stoic principles to modern life, it wasn’t the best treatment of the subject I’ve ever read, either. Still, I had some takeaways. You know how we think about what we would say if we could go back in time and talk to our younger self? Why not imagine that your older self has come back to talk to you? What do you imagine she’d say? Mine would probably say something like, “Relax, idiot, enjoy life.”

Book Corner 2019.27

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The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

My fourth Lionel Shriver and alas my least favorite.  Granted, it’s three stars – I read the whole thing and was interested each night to get back to the story.  But nobody was likeable, least of all the awful main character, who had something snide to say about EVERYONE; and since it was told from his perspective, the over all vibe was relentlessly ugly and negative.

The protagonist, Edgar, switches careers midlife to become a journalist; and he is sent to Portugal to cover a fictional separatist movement.  The area and the ethnic group Shriver is writing about are fake; but even so, I winced at her constant disparagement of the environment and its inhabitants – can something be “racist” when the “race” it’s taking shots at is entirely fictional?  I think so.  This is beyond having a nasty protagonist with a tendency to put everyone down – Shriver is the narrator and she’s no better than her character.

I’m neglecting to mention a significant part of the plot – the mysterious disappearance of the journalist who preceded Edgar.  I guess I didn’t much care.

I don’t want to give away spoilers; what drove the plot and my interest was how Edgar chose to become involved, at first very peripherally but then more and more directly, in the violence that is at first distant from him, then literally surrounds him.  This is what kept me coming back night after night.

Book Corner 2019.26

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The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson

***

An extended rant on everything you could possibly find wrong with, well, the way we eat now.

I didn’t really learn anything, except a lot of Britishisms. “Clingfilm” for plastic wrap. “Veg” for vegetables – much preferable to the babyish “veggies” we say in this country.

But anyway, lack of balance really bothered me, more in the beginning of the book than the end. For example, passing rants about increasing alcohol consumption – but a broad swipe like that has no meaning; alcohol consumption has to be the most varied of all food & drink intake habits across time and culture. There are cultures where alcohol has no traditional basis and was never heard of centuries ago; there are cultures where wine is a daily drink. There are American subcultures who are teetotalers; while colonial America was apparently drunk on hard liquor throughout the days of the founding fathers. There’s no mention of any of this.

It got more enjoyable and balanced towards the end. For example, she’s actually tried and liked meal kits, so instead of rants, they get a balanced treatment. She’s better when talking about her direct experience than when presenting history.