Catch Me & Kiss Me & Say It Again

Catch Me & Kiss Me & Say It Again — Rhymes by Clyde Watson; Pictures by Wendy Watson

This is a collection of original rhymes that have the nonsensical charm of Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes. These are poems for the very young, and they aren’t meant to be read as poems, but to be chanted in a sing-songy way while bouncing a baby on the knee, carrying a toddler on the shoulders, or counting out fingers and toes. The authors are sisters, and Clyde’s rhymes are perfectly illustrated by Wendy’s simple, timeless pictures of happy babies and small children.
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Beyond the Medical Model

Book CoverThe Culture of Our Discontent: Beyond the Medical Model of Mental Illness by Meredith Small

I’ve been interested lately in books like The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism that look at different cultural perspectives on mental illness, impairment and communication disorders that Americans tend to see and treat with a medical model, and, increasingly, with medication.

Anthropologist Meredith F. Small’s book is an overview of different perspectives on mental illness, including insights from evolutionary psychology, primatology, nutrition and other cultures. I found this interesting, but pretty basic. The book is perhaps too brief to cover such a range of topics in any depth.

Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community

coverBowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community — By Robert D. Putnam

Putnam writes about the decline in America’s social capital, the sum total of the formal and informal connections among members of a society. The book is filled with statistics on personal involvement in all types of organizations, from bowling leagues and bridge clubs to political, social and civic organizations. We even go on fewer picnics and spend less time in bars like “Cheers” where everybody knows your name.
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A Fractured Mind

coverA Fractured Mind : My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder — By Robert B. Oxnam

This was an impulse pick from the new books shelf at the library. I’ve never read any of the other famous memoirs about Multiple Personality Disorder, like “Sybil” or “When Rabbit Howls” and I’ve never seen “Three Faces of Eve.” I’ve never been interested in the topic of Multiple Personality Disorder (the term Dissociative Identity Disorder is now preferred.) It’s not that I am skeptical, it just seems too much like a soap opera with all those characters caught in a complicated web of relationships.
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The Professor and the Madman

coverThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary — By Simon Winchester

This is one of those books that I’ve been so familiar with for so long that it was rather a surprise to me when I realized that I had never actually read it.

The subtitle describes the story. Dr. William Minor, an American surgeon who served in the Civil War, commits a senseless and random murder in London, and is locked away in an institution for the criminally insane. He happens upon the opportunity to contribute to the Oxford English Dictionary, a massive intellectual project that requires the work of many volunteers to read through English literature harvesting useful quotations to illustrate the meanings of words. Minor has the intellectual interest and plenty of time, and he is, perhaps surprisingly, allowed to accumulate an impressive library at the institution. He becomes the most prolific and useful contributor, and wins the sympathetic admiration of James Murray, editor of the project, and others.
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Too Close to the Falls

coverToo Close to the Falls — By Catherine Gildiner

Young Catherine has an unusual, adventurous childhood, growing up in the small town of Lewiston, New York, near Niagara Falls. At the suggestion of the family doctor, Catherine’s parents put their active daughter to work in her father’s pharmacy, where she travels around the area from the age of four, assisting the kind and patient Roy with deliveries. They have many adventures on the road together, making deliveries to the nearby Indian reservation and to Marilyn Monroe on location filming “Niagara.”
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Revisiting the Kallikaks

Minds Made Feeble: The Myth and Legacy of the Kallikaks — By J. David Smith

I first read about the Kallikak family as a child, reading my parents’ copy of “You and Heredity” by Amram Scheinfeld. This was one of my favorite books, one I turned to often over many years, and the chapter about the Kallikak family was one of my favorites. I was interested in the science, but truly fascinated by the story. Reading it was a guilty pleasure, a deliciously racy soap opera, but with social, historical and scientific overtones. I especially loved the charts and diagrams, showing the unfortunate results of Martin Kallkak’s dalliance with the feeble-minded serving wench, and contrasted with the worthy and notable descendants that resulted from his later, lawful marriage to the “worthy Quakeress.” The first set of relatives were so horrible…literally so, since Martin’s son by the nameless girl was known as “the Old Horror.” And the second set, who, we are told, included signers of the Declaration of Indepence and founders of colleges, etc., seemed wonderfully high-class to me.
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