Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Geography of Bliss- Weiner (Book #15)

LOVED this book. There are some books that merit highlighting and re-reads, this is one of those books and I plan to buy it so I can read it and write my thoughts in the margin. Eric Weiner traveled the world particularly to some of the happiest countries in the world (and one sad one- Moldova) and did NOT give resounding conclusions. Instead he shared what he learned in a journalistic but well written prose. I found this book thought provoking and inspiring but also I felt as though I visited each country with him. He has such vivid descriptions you feel like you have traveled the world without having left your couch. Oh, and I'm moving to Iceland.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Story of a Marriage- Greer (Book #14)

After a nice high of awesome reading it figured I'd hit a dud. This book makes me cringe even when I think of it. The voice of the MC does not resonate as authentic to me, the plot is unbelievable, and the writing is... UGH. It's not that the guy writes bad, its just that he uses sooooooo many similes and metaphors that it is beyond overkill. She sees her husband sleeping, and then we are subjected to ten metaphors of how he is sleeping, like a cat on a perch near a mountain top while thinking of mice. (Not in the book, but you get the idea). In theory this could have been an interesting story, and some of his insights were nice, but for the most part this was a novel by an author thoroughly in love with the sound of his own voice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last Night at the Lobster- O'Nan (Book #13)

A beautifully written slim novel trailing the last night of work for Manny the manager of a Red Lobsters shutting its doors for good. The book is literally about this last night as Manny deals with a staff that is quitting by the hour (why stay when they are being laid off anyways), a love conflict he's struggling to resolve, and customers who range from mildly amusing to vile and nightmarish. I really enjoyed reading this book, an exploration of a character who is struggling to make it through the day, trying to be a good person, and figuring out his life. I like the subtlety of the book, how small details that give insight. An example: While Manny would never admit this since [Eddy] and him are friends, Eddie, being eager to please, is that much easier to boss around. This could have been written as a simple cliche, yet he said an age old saying of "teaching people how to treat you" but in a way that makes you pause and reflect just a bit. I liked it. Worth a read!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On My Own Two Feet-Thakor/Kedar (Book #12)

I checked this book out hoping it would be a lot like my favorite advice book by women for women: Big Sister's Guide to the World of Work. It is a good book I think for people who know very little about saving money and about managing finances. I'd say if you're just graduating high school or college and are starting your first job this book would be helpful.

The Whore's Child- Russo (Book #11)

I love Russo's books. This is a short story collection and I loved it just as I love Lahiri's short stories in "Interpreter of Maladies". He has a way with insight and introspection and character development that makes each character come alive and real to us as they must be in his mind's eye. This is my third Russo book and I'm beginning to see a lot of patterns in his novels and stories. In fact, in this collection, one story is almost identical to a longer novel of his that I recently read, "Straight Man". Because of the themes and patterns I saw recurring I felt that not only was I learning stories by a writer, but I was learning a bit of Russo the man and the life that he lives, the past that seems to seep into his words. The thing I love most about Russo's writing is that he writes about the truth of our world and he even faces us to certain horrors inherent in our lives, yet somehow we leave his stories thoughtful, perhaps inspired, but never fully desolate as such stories may inherently suggest. Beautifully written.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tao Te Ching (Book #10)

This is a sacred text and I will assume that I read a bad translation. Some parts of it were beautiful and filled with wisdom I understand but most of it I just did not understand. I don't think I've ever felt so confused since I studied "Securities Interests and Liens" in law school. I'm not going to rate it, but it was interesting, just a bit confusing to read.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Straight Man- Russo (Book #9)

When I put a book down and feel sad that its over I know that I just read a wonderful one. I should not be surprised that Russo hit it out of the park with this book since at this point I think I could read a book about him describing paint drying and find it riveting. This is a story about a professor in a mid-life crisis. That's putting it very simply. His books are character driven studies of the human psyche told with humor and charming insight into life, not sugarcoating the hard truths either. I haven't intended to read books on "the meaning of life" this year but it seems nearly every book I read has this theme lately. Maybe life is trying to teach me something. In any case, this book is beautiful and will leave me thinking for days to come.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

78 reasons why your book will never be published and 14 reasons why it might (Book #8)

Reason #1: You haven't written it yet. When I read this book about six years ago I read that paragraph and set the book down in the Border's book shelf, because he was right, it will never be published if I have not written it. Now that I have written it I found his words of wisdom useful, slightly discouraging but strangely motivating as well. Some of his advice is repetitive, but overall the messages contained in the book are important for aspiring writers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Martha Stewart's Cookies- Stewart (Book #7)

I've always wanted to bake cookies from scratch, though I spend time on learning more complicated desserts, somehow I never got around to making cookies from scratch which is why I checked this book out from the library. I liked the tips on how to prepare your ingredients such as making sure butter and eggs are at room temperature before stirring. I will be copying quite a few recipes to make for later, if you invite me to your home for dinner, be prepared you may be getting cookies soon!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Reading Changed My Life- Quindlen (Book #6)

This is a very slim book clocking in at just about 80 pages. I wanted to read a tribute to reading which is the reason I picked this book up from the library. This is truly an ode to those who love to read. She writes about how there has always been in nearly every decade and century, bemoaning of the death of fine literature, and she also looks down on those who are book snobs. Reading is not just for the sake of judging its merit, but reading is also to empathize with others, to feel less lonely, to understand the world around you, to travel without leaving your sofa. In short, if you want a pat on the back to keep on reading though the others may call you a bookworm, check this short book out.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Persepolis 2- Satrapi (Book #5)

Persepolis 1 was incredible and so I was glad I checked out the second part as well so I did not have to wait too long for the sequel. The sequel is good, but it pales in comparison to the original. This is the story of Marjane now older and begins with her in Austria. She is alone and a foreigner and struggles through adolescence with no one to console her. This novel was a lot darker and I liked Marjane a whole lot less. Despite that, I am impressed with her candor and how she tells the truth even when she must know how others will judge her. She is unapologetic. So if I am to base this on me trying to learn the truth of Iran and of this particular girl, then its wonderful, but if I am to base it on what I think of what she chose in her life, then its pretty depressing and in some ways unforgivable. However, that being said, though I disagree with her choices, I still think she has the right to make them (well, all but one involving the boy on the steps). If you read the first, you should certainly read the second.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Persepolis- Satrapi (Book #4)

My jaw dropped open while I read this book and remained so throughout. What a wonderful wonderful book. This is a graphic novel, my first, and quite unintentional as I thought this was actually a novel. This is a non-fiction story of a childhood during the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and the resolution. It is funny, engrossing, and absolutely heartrendingly tragic. She brought humanity to events that often seem removed, and the beauty of her narrative has no choice but to quite literally break your heart.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- Fitzgerald (Book #3)

This is a short story now a major motion picture that I read via daily lit. I would not normally consider a short story as a "book" but this particular book (TCCBB) was actually sold separately like a book instead of within a volume of short stories, so a book it is, and I shall count it as such. The movie from what I see of its trailers seems very serious and haunting. The book was more light and slightly funny. The book I dont think was ever meant to be taken literally, its basically a story about a man who was born old and died and infant. He lived his life in reverse. Its a story worthy of a few re-reads to get more out of it each time, and with its short length that probably won't be a problem.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Awakening- Chopin (Book #2)

I read this book when I was 18 and I remember some of the themes sticking with me, when I saw that it was offered for a daily reading on dailylit I subscribed to get daily e-mails with excerpts. Unfortunately (or not) dailylit lets you get the next installment immediately after reading the one e-mailed to you, so I finished the 65 parts of the book in three days.

The wife and mother of this book, a young woman of 28 decides to begin living her life without people telling her what to do. This is a good book about a woman coming to a spiritual awakening. It was written and published in an era of American history where women did not have the rights they do now. They wrote under nom de plume's and their sole role was a mother and wife. This book sought to break the mold for women, to show a woman choosing to shed what was conventional, and pursue her heart. I hope later to read up on the contextual history of that time and how it relates to her novel.

A quote I particularly liked: She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul.

I love that quote because so often women are expected, even today, to give themselves completely, and often they are left broken and desolate as though they themselves are not true people. I know someone whose mother abandoned them much like this mother did, and that mother had a similar husband and similar circumstances in this day and age... her story is fictional but what she says in some ways still rings true for some people in some societies, today.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss- Santiago (Book #1)

Never judge a book by its cover. It's a saying but how often I judge books just like that, and by judging this book by its cover I nearly passed up on a delicious and wonderfully written book.

This is a novel about a woman named Graciela told from three perspectives: Graciela's, Caridad and Impresiaro. C and I are from the village of her childhood in a small poor town in Cuba. The story trails their lives from before the revolution and then what happens afterwards up into when they arrive in the United States and the struggles they face when here.

This story is beautifully written. There are so many layers and so much to learn from it. On one hand, its a story of the loneliness of immigration. Sure people choose to come here but it can be an isolating feeling to leave what you know for what is wholly unfamiliar. I grew up in Miami where there were many many Cubans and there was a resentment at times by those of us who did not speak Spanish at how some Cubans seemed to refuse to learn English, this book talks about that and how some of these women refused to learn because they felt they were going back soon, they feared that learning meant admitting they were staying. The story is also about three women who went through hell and back, and how gossip can hold you back and how instead working to improve yourself and hoping against hope can make dreams come true. At its heart this is also a novel about redemption.

I love stories that teach me about life elsewhere, that help open my horizons and help me remember how similar we all are at the core of it. I recommend it to all.