Hilde Kaiser’s Best Reads of 2016

image1My name is Hilde Kaiser.  I live in northwest Evanston where I am a Jill-of-all-trades: writer, lead parent, certified Nia instructor, student of earth medicine, knitter, film buff, and home baker, with a bundle of volunteer work thrown in (all in the domain of parenting, education, and personal development). My idea of heaven is reading a book at the Evanston lakefront with a little something to eat from Hewn bakery.  As an avid reader (75 books so far this year) I am grateful for our area libraries and their superb programming (hey, how about Our Mutual Friend for Mission: Impossible?). My secret confession is that my favorite thing to read is “The Traffic Guy” column in The Round Table.

1)  Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton (2016)

I’m not above choosing a book by its cover, and the lush, evocative, and eccentric portrait of its subject, Margaret Cavendish, convinced me to pick this novella up, knowing nothing about it.  It’s so pretty.  It’s one of my favorite books of the year because I’m still thinking about this poetic, experimental, slightly odd gem of a historical novel that deserves lots of readers.  “Mad Madge” was a 17th-century proto-feminist who was one of the first women to publish under her own name and to earn a living by writing.  She also dressed herself on her own terms – crowds assembled to see what she was wearing when she went out for walk.  There’s a fab article in the New Yorker on the book as an example of “archival historical fiction” (as opposed to “realistic historical fiction”).  Which is another way of warning you this book is anything but straightforward, but it is one-of-a-kind, like its subject.  And the language is oh-so-pretty, like the cover.

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Antithesis of Parenting with Self-Esteem?

Fresh Air” regular  Maureen Corrigan reviews a fascinating book which is sure to stir up parents, psychologists, and culture experts for the foreseeable future. She notes the  vast differences between Chinese values and current American attitudes toward child-rearing in “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Education pros generally us warn not to insult or  restrict our children and to give them  “space.” Apparently there’s more than one way to get a child to practice piano, as Yale law professor Amy Chua reveals in this book.

Shira S.