Theme of the Week

Q or R – Science, Math, Medicine – Beautiful Mind

Reader: Cindy Parkhurst
Author: Paul Russell Cutright
Title: Theodore Roosevelt: The Naturalist
Call Number: QH 31 R72 C8
Rating: 5

Summary: Another book about my hero, Teddy! Just when I think I’ve finished reading about him another book pops up waiting to be read. This book is in the science section because it is not about Roosevelt as President, military hero, Canal planner, or naval scholar. This book is about Roosevelt, the experienced natural history buff.

TR was an amazing man because of his wide and varied interests and because he could not be mediocre at anything. Anything TR put his hand and mind to he mastered. So, when he became interested in natural history at a young age (about 7), he began a life long quest to master the natural world. His passion started with birds. He could identify most North American birds by their song. Many have said that his ear was much better than his eye. There is one humorous tale in this book about a trip TR took to Colorado during his presidency, in the spring of 1905. During that trip, he reported hearing the song of the Bullock Oriole. When his guide told him that the Bullocks would not arrive for another 4–6 weeks TR said, “No, it cannot be; I heard him, I know the note well.” Very shortly thereafter, the early Bullock appeared and stunned the guide. Of course TR was not surprised, because he knew the song!

I enjoyed this book because it talked about TR’s passion as a naturalist, a conservationist and an adventure traveler. Two summers ago I read a book by Candice Millard called River of Doubt that told the story of TR’s big trip into the Amazon rain forest charting the Rio de Duvida, an unknown tributary of the Amazon. He went with his son and nearly lost his life to a leg injury and malaria. I now recognize where Millard got much of her information. Cutright did a marvelous job of researching original documents to tell the story of TR the naturalist. This book was written in 1956 and relies heavily on the Roosevelt collection at Harvard University. There are some wonderful pictures of TR’s bird collection (he was quite an accomplished taxidermist) and many great adventure tales that make this a perfect summer read!

Cindy Parkhurst

Reader: Kitty Simmons
Author: Terri Cheney
Title: Manic
Call: RC 516 C48 2008
Rating: 5

Summary: “This harrowing yet hopeful book is more than just a searing insider’s account of what it’s really like to live with bipolar disorders. It is a testament to the sharp beauty of a life lived in extremes.” ––Book jacket

As you might expect from a memoir based on a bipolar life, this is really a roller–coaster read. The ride plunges immediately in the opening chapter with a suicide attempt narrowly averted by the most unlikely rescuer. As the title implies, the focus is more on episodes of manic activity, but depression is always lurking, ready to take a turn when the mania is exhausted. The story is told episodically rather than chronologically mirroring the author’s contention that her life is defined by mood rather than time.

The memoir reveals extreme actions followed by extreme consequences as various escapades end in such unpleasant situations as being in a jail cell or strapped to a mental hospital bed. The reader gains insight into how tortuous and compelling this life has become for the author as this illness whips her back and forth without mercy. Fortunately, after a bout with electric shock treatment and many attempts to hone in on medications which would bring stability, she is able to control her moods and live a more normal life. Although the years of living with this disorder compromised her health and resulted in the loss of career and relationships, she seems at peace with herself in the end. In fact, this is not really a depressing book to read at all. She infuses a sense of humor and honesty in the narrative which carry the reader through the most disturbing scenarios.

This book was both fascinating to read and also gave me a much better understanding of how bipolar disorder affects everyday life. As a memoir, it is the story of one person’s life experience, without clinical details or scholarly explanations. However, the story told makes it clear that for some people, just living takes a lot of courage. This is probably the most memorable book I’ve read this summer.

Theme Archives

B’s – philosophy, psychology, theology, religions
C or D – history of Europe, Africa, Asia, archaeology History of the World part 1
E or F – history of the Americas – Roots
G or H – Economics, business, anthropology, sociology, crime – Wall Street
L – Education – Stand and Deliver
M or N – Music, Art – Amadeus
P – Language and Literature – The Diary of Bridget Jones
Q or R – Science, Math, Medicine – Beautiful Mind