October 28, 2004
Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn

Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn: the true life tale of a of Red-Tail Hawks living in Central Park in New York City.

Unbeknownst to most people, Central Park in New York City is a habitat to hundreds of birds, butterflies, plants, and small mammals. There are many dedicated people that watch and meticulously record where these animals can be found, how they live, and what they do. Marie Winn fell in love with the Bird Registry (the book that records this information) and became a dedicated bird watcher herself.

In the spring of 1992, a pair of red-tailed hawks began trying to raise a family amongst the skyscapers in this urban jungle. The Regulars, the dedicated nature lovers in charge of the Registry, breathlessly watched and recorded the struggles of this family.

I’ve only been to New York City once and didn’t get to see Central Park, so I had no idea that so much life was contained in its boundries. The book definitely makes me want to visit Central Park next time I go to New York City. However, I could never get into the story.

I found the struggle of the hawks very interesting, but most of the book seemed to revolve around other, smaller dramas that couldn’t quite capture my attention whole-heartedly. I’m a nature lover myself, so I’m not sure what I felt was lacking to really make this book a page turner for me, though some of it had to do with the fact that I never felt that I truly knew The Regulars and had a hard time keeping each ones specialty (be it butterfly knowledge, plant knowledge, or whatnot) straight. This tended to distract me from the story.

As much as I wanted this to become a gripping story, it fell flat for me and I really couldn’t recommend it except to the most ardent nature lover.

October 04, 2004
The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers

The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers: a small, lovely collection of quotations by Mister Rogers, everyone’s favorite neighbor.

Fred Rogers, known to children and adults throughout the world simply as Mister Rogers, was one of the most well-known and beloved television figures. His message was simple - everyone is precious, love your neighbors, treat people right, and believe in yourself.

The collection was divided into four sections: The Courage to Be Yourself, Understanding Love, The Challenges of Inner Discipline, and We Are All Neighbors. A foreward by his wife Joanne was also included which contained my favorite quote, though it wasn’t by Mister Rogers. It was from Mary Lou Kownacki and said, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” What could be a better definition of empathy and tolerance?

I’ve been going through some rough times lately and I’m not ashamed to admit that reading some of Mister Rogers words made me cry, mostly because they made me feel better about myself than I have in a long time.

Part of a public service announcement that he made for the first anniversary of September 11th, included this, “I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger: I like you just the way you are.” Is there anything more comforting to know that Mister Rogers loves you and, more importantly, likes you for who you are? Somehow I don’t think so.

September 12, 2004
Cool Dead People: Obituaries of Real Folks We Wish We'd Met a Little Sooner by Jane O'Boyle

Cool Dead People: Obituaries of Real Folks We Wish We’d Met a Little Sooner by Jane O'Boyle: a quick little book that tells the tales of people that have passed on.

Jane O'Boyle collected obituaries of over one hundred interesting people (categorized into trailblazers, curators, problem solvers, advocates, and dreamers) and put them in this small book so that we could all learn more about them. While some of the people in here may be known to many, most of them are people that I’d never heard of, doing things I’d never known about. As she put it, “they are everyday people like you and me who did extraordinary things. And that makes them cool.”

As a poker player, I was particularly happy to find the obituary of Stuey Ungar, one of the greatest poker players ever that died at the young age of forty-five. While an incredible card player, he was also a hopeless gambler and addict and even lost $1,000,000 on one football game once.

At a mere 143 pages with larger than average type and smaller than average pages, the book takes hardly any time at all to read, but it’s still pretty darn interesting.

March 24, 2003
Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell: I started out this book really excited about what I was going to read. For about the first half of the book, I still felt that excitement, but it steadily began to wane. By the end of the book, I was just ready for it to end.

Cornwell presented some strong evidence against Walter Sickert, the man she claims was Jack the Ripper. She shows remarkable similarities in phrases that both men used, in handwriting and drawing styles, and in paper and envelopes used in the infamous Ripper letters to the police. Most importantly, she shows a link in mitochondrial DNA between an envelope mailed by the Ripper and two used by Sickert.

In reality, the book really does boil down to mostly circumstantial evidence since these crimes occured over 120 years ago and all “real” evidence has long been destroyed. I think if the book would have been shorter and more tightly written I wouldn’t have thought over and over again, “When is this damn thing going to end?”