Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die is as meandering as its subtitle. To simplify, one might say that the author and her two young children visits a playground in Tokyo where children are allowed, even encouraged, to play with dangerous tools, jump down from considerable heights onto cheap mattresses, and play with fire — and she becomes fascinated by the contrast between the playground and the ultra-safe environments in which American children (of a certain economy class) play.
I would have preferred a more structured approach but enjoyed the author often funny asides, such as her reaction when seeing an older gentleman who regularly visits the playground and carves sticks for the children: New Yorkers would overwhelm the 911 system if such a character appeared in their playgrounds!
Jonas Salk: A Life is a well-researched biography of a famous man, whom we think we know because of his discovery of the polio vaccine, but who actually started out by creating a flu vaccine, and in the process of testing it demonstrated the concept of herd immunity. Not bad! Sadly, his life after his big discovery seems to revolve around building a shrine of a lab and making quite a shamble of his personal life.
I seem to always get bored when reading biographies, because they seem to contain a level of details that does not add much to the overall arc of the story. Who cares about the exact date at which he met his second wife (Francoise Gilot, who perhaps should be famous as an artist, but most famous for being Picasso’s lover)? I sped-read through the second half.
I’m a little tired of novels told from an unusual point of view, and Pigeon English, told by a young Ghanaian immigrant in a grim UK housing project unfortunately fell in that category. So I was not able to muster much enthusiasm for the musings of the boy who is investigating a friend’s brutal murder, despite its many fresh observations on language and the mores of his adopted country
I did learn some Ghanaian slang, though. Hutious means scary, apparently, and that boy lives in a hutious place.
Don’t be fooled by the cartoonish cover: Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age is a philosophy book (I know… brainless beach reading one day and philosophy the next, it’s quite a shock!).
From the jacket cover I see that the author is, apparently, skewering our society’s obsession with youth. I must be a little thick because I did not quite grasp that from reading the book. Still, amongst the intimidating Kant and Hanna Arendt quotes, she makes a great point that becoming an adult is all about reconciling what the world ought to be with what it is. That’s a child-rearing insight that could change the world.