Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ryan's Reads 2011

Time for my annual "What did I read and what do I recommend" post. Its been another busy year with work, Sam, and another little one planned to come into our life, but I still found a little time to settle down with a book. This year I averaged a book a month, and I hope to at least keep that up next year. This year I didn't read any fiction. The books with a star by them are the ones I especially liked and recommend if you are looking for a great read. Here we go…

Religious/Religious History:

Parley P Pratt: The Aposle Paul of Mormonism
The book is a new scholarly biography on Parley P Prattt put out by Oxford Press. The book follows the LDS Apostle to Europe, South America, and throughout the US as he preached the gospel, tried to manage his family, and adapted to the turbulent events of Church leadership during 1830-1857. The book is fine, but doesn't seem to illuminate the subject as much as it could. He wrote an autobiography in the 1850's that is full of adventure, humor, and faith and I recommend starting there if you have interest in LDS history.

*Is a book of spiritual teaching and advice by current LDS Apostle Robert D Hales. It's not rehashed conference talks and was really a great book. Cheyney and I would read a chapter a week for FHE this year. Elder Hales talks about his time as a fighter pilot, CEO of Gillet and other experiences to teach insights in living he has learned.

American Grace
A sociological study on contemporary religious identification and adherence in US. Per booklist "The authors complement their statistical analysis with colorful vignettes, humanizing their numbers with episodes from the lives of individual Protestants and Catholics, Jews and Mormons." Fun to look at what people of many faiths report they believe, how they practise, and what they think in general about other faiths, politics, and other issues.

The Mormon Menace
Is a history of Mormons in the South from 1850-1900. I had no idea the amount of persecution going on then in that area. Four Mormon Missionaries were killed, harassment and mobs were rampant, and Mormons were kicked out of many areas and states in the South including being completely removed from Georgia in the 1890's. Luckily college football and Chick-Fil-A were invented soon after that and the South became awesome.

US Politics/US/World History:

Capitalism and Freedom
Milton Friedman's book of libertarian economic philosophy written in the 1950's. A lot of his ideas were adopted and others seem way out in left field, but thought provoking. I don't agree with a lot about libertarianism, but there are some good ideas. This book is especially great if you are into Ron Paul.

Plain Honest Men
*A tic-toc history of the writing of the Constitution over a summer in Philadelphia. Contrary to some popular belief that making of the Constitution seemed messy and involved a lot of arm wringing and compromising between competing states. It seemed at times more of a truce than a defining political philosophy. The seeds of modern political disagreement were all there between differing factions as the document was created. Interesting tangential fact: In order to foster compromise no one involved in the convention from any of the states could talk about what was happening in the convention and they even went so far as to keep all the doors and windows closed all summer to maintain confidentiality. Hot hot hot!

Lords of Finance
*This book won a a Pulitzer in 2010 and is excellent. It's a look at the history of international finance leaders and their policies and interactions from the teens to the 1930's. I'm no economist and this did a great job of explaining complex ideas such as the gold standard, Keynesian economics, and ways of controlling a complex and variable economy. I felt smarter after reading this about so me issues that are in the news with current international finance concerns

The origins of political order
A big book of political philosophy by a a leading intellectual on the subject. I'd read "The End of History and the Last Man" while in grad school and was amazed by the insight and fortune telling of future history by that book. This book was more of a set up of history from the beginnings till 1750 and the follow up book is the one I am really looking forward to.

A paradise built in hell
A so-so history of how people react during mass traumatic events. The thesis-that altruism often trumps chaos is interesting, but the author uses mostly conjecture and focuses to much on self, injecting herself too often in to the subject. A little too breezy and magazine article like for my tastes.
Poisoning the Press
*This book is a lot of fun. Its a book about Richard Nixon and Jack Anderson an investigative reporter and how they battled in the 1950's and 1960's. I always heard Nixon was nuts, but man I had to skip some pages when Nixon was really being his vile self. I was born post Watergate and missed a lot of the History on this. Great read.

The Aquariums of Pyongyang
*When I was in grad school my friend Julian who worked at an international relations think tank used to get drunk and talk about North Korea and Cuba, and it was always pretty fascinating and got me interested in totalitarian states. Since then I've made an effort to watch Documentaries on North Korea, and picked up this book.This book is a memoir of a guy who was in a Korean Labor camp for about a decade. I kept on thinking as I read this, "I can't believe this has happened and is still happening." North Korea is fascinating, weird, and evil all at the same time. A great transporting book to learn about a place you can't go and are lucky you aren't a part of.

The Emperor of All Maladies
*A history of Cancer that won the Pulitzer recently. Fascinating stuff as the book takes you through history to see how treatments and medical knowledge develops and changes. It's very well written and engrossing for such a difficult topic.

Now it's your turn. What have you been reading, and what do you recommend?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Last Hurrah as an only child

We just got back from a nice getaway to Denver. We took Sam to the Children's museum and he had a blast.

We also went to the Denver Aquarium where Sam went berzerk pointing and saying, "Ha Da!" (which is his way of saying, "what's that?") Here are some pics.

We had a great time walking 16th Street and looking at all the shops and eating Vietnamese and Mellow Mushroom. We even did Priceline and stayed in a 4 star hotel.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Merry Christmas! We have had a great Christmas this year and feel very blessed. We stayed in Colorado as we are about two weeks away from baby boy #2 joining our family.

We went to the Electric Safari Zoo and saw a lot of lights, animals, and Santa.

They had the best Santa. Sam told him all the animal sounds, gave him high five, and told him he wanted a train but would NOT sit in his lap.
It was nice to split up our Christmas with church on the day we celebrate our Savior's birth. We got to split the presents before and after church. We had our traditional scones for breakfast and Sam was so worn out he took a 4 hour nap! We loved skyping with family.

Sam was very delicate as he tried to open the presents. He would tear a little and then say, "stuck!" He was thrilled with the little things like the slinky, toothbrush, and ball that lights up.