Sunday, March 30, 2008

44 Scotland Street

For some reason it took me three months to finally read this book but once I read it I loved it. Its the light reading I desire in my chic lit books but without the annoying-ness of many chic lit books I've read. I love the way he writes and the page long chapters detailing the stories of the characters who inhabit Scotland St. This book was initially written as a daily insert in the Scottish Newspaper and this book is a compilation of those daily inserts. I look forward to reading the others in his series.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Then we came to the end- Ferris

What a delightful book! Its funny, its got heart, and at times its downright sentimental. This is a story about a corporate ad agency and the people who inhabit it as life begins delightfully and then the dread of lay offs take over every aspect of their lives. I can see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. Its probably one of my favorite books now.

Incidentally, I don't know why I have a thing for office based entertainment? (Office Space, the Office, this book...) Go figure!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Wow. This is the story of a woman born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and the life she lived in a polygamous relationship as a young wife to an abusive man having child after child despite the fact that many of her pregnancies were life threatening. Reading her harrowing tale I could not help but think of Khalid Hossein's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". The abysmal treatment of the women was eerily similar. The brainwashing that they deserved to be treated this way, and that the afterlife would make up for the abuse they now suffered. The difference between the books is that this tale is a true story and it took place here in the United States of America. I am glad that attention is being brought to the human rights violations taking place in the FLDS and I hope that those who have done wrong will be brought to justice. The book tries hard to remain factual and I respect that. Carolyn takes great care to note that FLDS is not like Mormonism though they are a branch off of the faith. She also traces the evolution of the FLDS to the extremism it now faces. She describes unbelievable tales though... such as running a motel for her husband in the middle of nowhere and her husband allowing a known criminal who is obsessed with his wife to live in the hotel despite police, and security begging him to let this man go. Later Carolyn learns that her husband may have been hoping that the worst would happen. I'm so glad she escaped and thus saved her other children from a fate such as hers and I'm glad she told her story. The writing could have used a lot of editing, she repeats the same things word for word several times and once is really enough.... but otherwise its an interesting story and needed to be told.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mindless Eating- Wansink

This is a good book to help you realize you are not as in control of what you eat as you might think through very thorough explanations of his research in various universities determining many things such as how accurately we assess calories in our foods, which situations are most likely to enable us to mindlessly eat. I really like this book for its information but I felt it was a bit too apologist to the food industry claiming that they do not have bad intentions in feeding us as they do (five servings on one package of chocolate that everyone knows you will eat in one gulp, etc) but I don't find his reasoning very convincing. Still, its a good book and very interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pritikin Weight Loss Breakthrough

I began reading this book after reading Pollan's books "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (both reviewed on this site below). While Pollan never mentioned Pritikin, I found that Pritikin's ideas reflected very much what Pollan had to say (i.e. avoid processed food, easy on the heavy meat emphasis, eat more plants, etc.). The principle seems fascinating but this particular book is not the one to read to get an idea of the details of his plan as only one or two chapters are truly devoted to it. I really enjoyed reading about his explanation of why we crave fats and sweets and how to try and outsmart it. It really makes great sense that you will feel fuller eating a huge salad as compared to a 3 oz steak though the salad had infinitely less calories.

People keep saying Pritikin is really strict and not realistic but I dont see how? You never go hungry, you can eat sweet things like oranges and other fruits, you can eat even after dinner. I think its a much better alternative to many diets out there today.

All this being said there are a few things I disagree with Pritikin about:
1. Some of his meal plans include diet coke. You can read here why I disagree with that. Plus if we're supposed to avoid processed food well, diet coke is processed food!
2. He advocates using low fat dressing. Research has shown that we absorb more nutrients in our veggies through some fat in the dressing. Also, most dressing is incredibly processed, there should have been some caution about this included. I think olive oil, some feta and freshly ground peppers and salt with a hint of lime mixed together and poured over a salad is unbeatable.

My rating of this book is for this book in understanding the Pritikin principle and not a statement of the diet in general, principles of which, I intend to incorporate myself.

Freakonomics- Levitt and Dubner

For all the hype I expected more. This is an interesting read about the reasons why many things are the way they are and challenges popular theories on topics such as the reason for the decrease in crime in the US (its not better police patrol, its abortions). Each chapter examines links between different things and why they are correlated. Its okay but I hoped for some sort of unifying theme or idea to take away (which in the last chapter the authors admit they do not have). All in all, a good library book, but not one I'd put on my bookshelf despite the cute "Apple/Orange" cover picture.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil- Berendt

This is a nonfictional (but slightly fictionalized nonetheless) story of Savannah, GA and the characters who inhabit it. Many plots and subplots exist, mainly a murder mystery but even more than that, an observation of Savannah and the quirky characters who seem to be unlike any other people outside this self isolated city. I found the writing completely engrossing and the stories of the characters extremely engaging. If you read this, you will find yourself wanting very much to travel to Savannah. I read this after traveling to Savannah, and I wish I had read it before!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Sold- McCormick

What a beautiful incredible read! This is a story about Lakshmi, a 13 year old girl sold into prostitution by her family. Patricia McCormick, when I saw the name I scoffed at yet another non-desi trying to capture the desi experience... but she did it so well. Her writing is more prose than novel each word flowing effortlessly into the next and her chapters capturing moments though brief expressed perfectly. The story shows how hope so carefully cherished can vanish to complete desolation.... And the fact that this happens in the here and now is all the more chilling for the reader. I've been waiting for a good depiction of the issues of prostitution in the desi world. I read a few others "Dancing Girls of Lahore" and watched "Born into Brothels" but neither captured the actual nature of the horror. Each sort of side stepped it in my opinion. This one tackled the issue head on putting you into the head of a girl living a life like this. And Patricia researched her story by traveling to India and Nepal and speaking to people who have lived the life of Lakshmi or currently are living that life.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In Defense of Food- Michael Pollan

I read Omnivore's Dilemma and it was nothing short of a life changing experience. I kid you not. So I had to read his new book "In Defense of Food" and it was brilliant as well. In Defense takes off from where OD left off. OD discusses where our food comes from and opens our eyes to the harsh realities of processing and industrial foods. In Defense tells us what to do with that the knowledge that most of what is available for us to consume is not necessarily good for us to consume.

These two books have truly opened my eyes and given me a lightbulb moment more than any other dieting, health book ever has. I feel like a different person seeing the world with new eyes. Though I checked this book out from the library, this is the first book that I plan to actually purchase. Its a book I want as a constant reference and reminder.