Category Archives: Books

Need something to read?

I’ve recently finished a couple of good books:

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John de Graaf, Davin Wann, and Thomas H Naylor

I found this to be a good primer for examining the effects of over consumption. The book is based on a 2000 PBS documentary and, as such, it has a casual narrative style. It was a fairly easy read but is definitely intended to incite its readers to action- specifically to reexamine your own consumption and to reduce it- for the sake of the Earth.

Affluenza was strong on the causes and symptoms of Affluenza but seemed to fall short when discussing cures or solutions.

More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre

This second book offers some of the solution that was lacking above. Written, and contributed to, by members of the Mennonite faith, this book is primarily a cookbook. In addition, it is a handbook for cooking and living in simple and sustainable ways. I especially like the mindset that the author is coming from. The recipes are all basic, but unique and tasty. Most of the ingredients are easy to find at the store. And there are little tips here and there about how to save and use your leftovers and scraps. I love having thrifty inspiration.

R

What She Saw in… by Lucinda Rosenfeld

The full title of this novel is What She Saw In Rogermancuso, Gunter Hopstock, Jason Barry Gold, Spitty Clark, Jack Geezo, Humphrey Fung, Claude Duvet, Bruce Bledstone, Kevin McFeeley, Arnold Allen, Pablo Miles, Anonymous 1-4, Nobody 5-8, Neil Schmertz and Bo Pierce. Any guesses as to what it is about?

What She Saw In… was a frustrating read for me because I was constantly annoyed with Phoebe, the protagonist. Her self destructive attitude led her to meaningless relationships that, hard as she may have tried, never satisfied her. Each encounter left her questioning who she was and how she lived.

Not having ever been a serial dater, I was unable to identify with Phoebe; or even know if Rosenfeld painted an acurate portrait of this kind of life. I found myself alternately saddened and disgusted by her lifestyle. It was an enlightening look into a life vastly different than my own.

The writing was young and fresh, the story slightly engaging but overall not a bad read.

S

The Fruit of Stone by Mark Spragg

A modern day Cowboy story. (No, not that modern day cowboy story!)

Spragg allows his readers to slowly discover the characters in his book. Each short character vignette builds upon the previous one and each gives new insight into the lives of McEban, Bennett, Ansel, Gretchen and others. Spragg explores the decisions made in life and how those decisions are influenced by past events and trusted loved ones.

I’ve never been to Montana or Wyoming but the descriptions in this book make me want to pack my bags, find a dude ranch and saddle up.

[for those of you just tuning in: this is the eighth book in my series Authors: Z-A. Next up, R]

T

Floating by Robin Troy

I didn’t have high expectations for this book when I picked it up. I wasn’t sure what kind of novel would win the MTV Book Award. I had a feeling it might be something “hip” or cool. Probably too cool for me to understand or appreciate.

Floating didn’t do much for me. The story takes place in a Southwestern ranch town- I wondered what a Harvard gal from the Midwest would know about horses and ranches and tumbleweed. As it turns out, maybe not much. I found that her descriptions were vague and stereotypical. I wasn’t sure if she had been to a ranch or if she’d only read about them.

The plot and the characters themselves were fine. Not overly bland or overly interesting. I moved through the book slowly; not due to complicated language or plot twists, but due to disinterest. The two most interesting characters in the book are a recently imprisoned man and his 8 year old son. They are, at best, marginal characters. That was unfortunate. I would have liked to have explored their stories in more depth.

Eh. Read it if you want. If not, you’re probably not missing much.

U

Toward the End of Time by John Updike

John Updike has written upwards of 50 books in his lifetime. The Beverly Public Library had nearly all of them on the shelf. What were the chances that I’d choose one that took place in my back yard?

Toward the End of time does take place here on the North Shore of Boston, but not in 2006; rather, in the year 2020. To me that date is one of two interesting themes in the novel. 2020 is no ordinary year. The US is just coming out of a nuclearly devastating war with China. Due to its distance from China, the Northeast is not heavily damaged. So life continues as it had pre-war; mostly.

It was interesting to read Updike’s take on Massachusetts in the future. There were many references to local sites and ‘current’ events. The “Big Dig” even makes an appearance! Since 2020 isn’t that far into the future the predictions were somewhat credible and encouraged my own thoughts about what the next 15 years may hold.

The main story surrounds an aging, retired gentleman (Ben Turnbull) and explores his feelings about how his life is changing. Updike is somewhat ambiguous about whether or not aging is a negative (or positive) thing. Turnbull is reevaluating relationships and activities, beliefs, politics and love. As the title suggests, Turnbull is moving towards the end of time, but maybe not as quickly as he thinks.

I found this to be a very thought provoking novel. I’m curious, though, seeing as Updike has written so many works; did I make a good selection? Have you read other works by Updike? Have you read this one? Are there others that you would recommend? I’d love to know!

Book-tacular

It’s my turn to chime in on the uber-popular “book meme”. I found this to be tremendously difficult. I’ve read so many books and so many of them were memorable and there’s so many that I’d want on a deserted island.

  1. One book that changed your life: Husband Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth Maybe not so much “changed” but “reinforced” my outlook on childbirth; and helped me achieve it.

  2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Lately? Hippos Go Berserk

  3. One book you’d want on a desert island: The Swiss Family Robinson

  4. One book that made you laugh: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

  5. One book that made you cry:Les Miserables

  6. One book that you wish had been written: “How To Eat All the Ice Cream You Want and Never Gain a Pound; 2nd Edition; edited to include Tater Tots”

  7. One book that you wish had never been written: There are books I wish I had never read… but everyone gleans value from different material. I’m sure that books I have hated fall into the “changed my life” for other people.

  8. One book you’re currently reading: Toward the End of Time

  9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:1776

  10. Now tag five people: Angela:: Jeremy:: Lisa:: Bethany Joy:: Jill::

Book Meme

I’ve been tagged by Mr. Farnham to do a book meme. So here it is!

  • One book that changed your life: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity It’s a book about getting organized and getting things done, but it’s also about reclaiming space in your mind and in your life to help you focus on the things that matter most.
  • One book that you’ve read more than once: GTD again.
  • One book you’d want on a desert island: Some book about survival and how to get off of an island as soon as possible. I am not going to assume that I’ll be stuck on this island forever; I want something practical!
  • One book that made you laugh: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
  • One book that made you cry: Can’t think of one.
  • One book that you wish had been written: “What Are They Thinking?: Explanations of the Weirdos Around You”
  • One book that you wish had never been written: Can’t think of one.
  • One book you’re currently reading: Life Photographers: What They Saw. It has excellent interviews with photographers from the staff of Life magazine. It’s about more than just photography, though. It’s about history, culture, life, and work. It’s a joy to read.
  • One book you’ve been meaning to read: The Neutronium Alchemist : Conflict (Neutronium Alchemist, No 2). The next in a series of books that I had started reading a few years ago. I haven’t been able to find this volume at our local library, unfortunately.
  • Now tag five people: Alright, let’s see who’s paying attention (or at least monitoring Technorati:

V

The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G. Vassanji

This epic story looked promising. I was excited to read about the racial conflicts in Africa in the 1950s and 60s; a part of history I don’t know much about. I hoped that the story would pull me into a world so completely different from my own.

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to connect with the story. The writing style was clear and the descriptive vignettes were beautiful, but I just couldn’t get into the ‘meat’ of the story.

I was very disappointed that I only made it halfway through this book. I enjoy historically based novels and the cultural knowledge that can be gleaned from them. Also, while written in the past tense, at the end of each chapter Vassanji jumps to a paragraph or two in the present tense. I would have really loved to see how the past and present lives of Vik came together, but I couldn’t keep my head in the book.

Maybe at some point in the future I’ll give this one another shot. I guess it just wasn’t the book for me at this moment in time.

W

Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett

The reviews on the jacket of this novel promised a hilariously funny novel. I can honestly say that I didn’t find any part of it funny. I finished the book, but it was more out of principle than enjoyment.

I’m not sure what else to say. It probably wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but kind of a waste of time. I guess I shouldn’t judge a book by its title; this novel certainly won’t be winning the National Book Award any time soon.

X

Little did I know that when I started this Z-A reading adventure that I would find a gem so quickly. But with book number three I found a story so beautiful that it took my breath away and made me want to move to Asia.

Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran

The X section at the library offered two selections. One was set in World War II torn Europe and the other set in war torn mid century Tibet. The former is a pretty familiar setting to me, so I chose the latter. I am so glad that I did.

The title claims that the book is a love story. It is so much more than that. Based on a story told to the author it recounts the life of a Chinese woman searching Tibet for her missing husband. She becomes enveloped in the life and culture of the Tibetan people while searching and learns more about herself than about her lost husband.

The author’s descriptions of Tibet are breath-taking. More than once I was forced to stop and remember the years that this story was taking place in. One character saw an electric light for the first time in the 1980’s! That’s after I was born!

Sky Burial was a short, but satisfying read. Part of me wishes that it was longer so that I could experience more of the Tibetan culture. On the other hand, the tale was told so beautifully that stretching it out would only be watering it down.