Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Books I Read in January: 2011 Edition

I don't know why I read so much this month. I felt like there wasn't anything good on TV. I'm just not excited about any of the new shows. Sure, I've got my old standbys but nothing new has really grabbed me. This saddens me because I really love good TV. Feel free to make suggestions of what I should watch--let's see if we can shorten this book list next month! And if you want to "commiserate" with me about the evils and pointlessness of watching television you can, but that's not exactly my point.

First I read Sway by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman. Christian gave this to me for Christmas.

It's really good and a quick read--I think most people would like it. It's about how people make decisions and act irrationally. It also tells about how in the French "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" the "Ask the Audience" help is not very useful because french audiences will always enter in the wrong answer because they don't think the contestants deserve to get it right if they need help. There's just no sussing out the French.

Then I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. This is a great book. I recommend it. It will change how you think about parenting, poor people, and expertise. I really like it.

I love how this book demystifies talent. I mean, there are people with more or less "talent" in certain areas but he talks about how experts need to spend 10,000 hours to become experts. It's not some fleeting "you're born with it" kind of thing. The Beatles, Steve Jobs, Mozart--they all spent 10,000 hours getting good at their thing. They had lucky breaks and coincidences which let them spend 10,000 hours at a young age. It's really interesting. It also talks about the differences between lower-income families and rich families with kids who do better in school. The kids aren't smarter, but their parents talk to them more and have more books around. It really changed the way I think about a lot of things. Of course it's too late for me to get 10,000 hours in anything, but it was fun to tell my kids they could be experts in anything they wanted to spend 10,000 hours on.

The Glass Castle by Jeannete Walls. Holy freakazoid.

I am very glad I read this memoir, but it is disturbing and heartbreaking. It's the story of a family with parents who are totally crazy. Maybe not crazy? They just do really weird things and live in really awful circumstances. It's pretty unbelievable. They never have food and the mom who lays in bed all day sneaks under her blanket to eat a giant-sized Hershey bar. It makes the kids really mad. Read this book if you want to feel like an amazing mother. It's quite moving--and the human spirit endures! (Good to know when I'm hiding from my kids in the pantry eating secret candy.)

Then I read Truce. You should read this.

This is non-fiction for kids and it is available in the Scholastic Reader. Get it. I love this story and I had never heard anything about it until this year during our ward Christmas program when they mentioned that the Germans and the English had a truce on Christmas day during World Ward I and they sang hymns back and forth to each other. You guys know that I'm not a big cryer but when I read about the soldiers in their trenches (ugh--trench warfare? Is there anything LESS inspired?) lighting candles and putting out decorated trees and finally posting a sign saying "We no shoot. You no shoot," tears streamed. (That's a first for this blog--go ahead. Check.) I love Christmas, OK? And I hate war. World War I was particularly loathsome in it's pointlessness. Some of the soldiers were unwilling to keep the truce--they thought it was a trick and refused to fraternize with the enemy. One of those soldiers was Adolf Hitler. OF COURSE. But those who did fraternize shared songs and presents, even gave each other haircuts and took pictures. In some places this truce lasted for weeks and even months. When commanding officers came around (they didn't like the truce, as you can imagine) and made the soldiers fire their weapons, they warned each other to stay low and shot high into the air. I mean, WHY ISN'T THERE A MOVIE OF THIS? I love this story. It's about what I like best about humans.

I got The Water Seeker at the library. It's juvenile fiction and I thought one of my kids would read it. But I just read it myself.

Frankly, there's enough about childbirth and the dying of women in childbirth that I'm not sure my 13 year old son could handle it. It's a little-house-on-the-prairie type of thing. I love that type of thing. It's not amazing but it is good and charming. I liked it. I finished it--which says a lot because I don't finish books I don't like. Life's too short.  I really need to keep a list of books I haven't finished. That would be useful. But for now, give this one a try. It will remind you of 5th grade Utah History when you learned about trappers.

I was pleased to read The Man Who Loved Books too Much and discover one of the main players in this weird story is a Utah icon--Ken Sanders of Ken Sanders Rare Books. He's quite a character. This is the story of a guy who loves to steal expensive rare books. Ken Sanders helped catch him. It's surprisingly intriguing.

I can't believe I have never been to Ken Sander's bookstore. I'm going to go there this summer with the kids. I can't go anywhere right now because it's too cold outside to do or go anywhere.

Then I got a book in the mail from Karey White--one of our own! I love it when a blogger makes good and publishes a book. I wish it would happen to me. Of course, I would have to write a book first.

This is a really good book and Karey should be proud of herself. She's a good writer. Gifted is compelling and I really enjoyed all the references to Mormon stuff. I don't read much LDS fiction. I don't think I've ever read any LDS fiction, come to think of it. It's kind of fun to talk about church callings and the spirit. Congratulations Karey!


OK. So then I read another dog book. But The Other End of the Leash is different.

This isn't so much about dog training as it is about animal behaviorism and why people (as primates) do the wrong things when we try to get dogs (canines) to obey us. Like, repeating commands louder and louder when dogs aren't really all that verbal. It's very interesting and I learned some useful stuff. The writer is a really devoted "dog person" in a way that I'm sure you think I am but which is, truthfully, a tiny bit of a turn off to me personally. Still, if you have a dog and you are trying to get it to obey you this is a good book to read. Incidentally, when I was at the dentist last week (no cavities) I was reading this book in the waiting room. The young woman (early 20s?) sitting across from me was just sitting there doing nothing--no magazine, no phone, no book--David Puddy style. I took note of it but, whatever. Then she said, "Excuse me! I don't mean to bother you but I have to ask, is that a good book?" Well, like I said it's a good book in a certain context. "Would you recommend it?" she asked. I told her I would recommend it for people who have dogs. She didn't say she had a dog or anything, but that she loved to read a lot, even though she was just sitting in the waiting room not reading or anything. So, there you have it. This book is fine. Read it if you have a dog or time at the dentist to kill.

If you are nosy like me then you will probably want to read Other People's Rejection Letters.

This is just a series of other people's rejection letters. Some belong to famous people (Jimmy Hendrix's discharge from the army). There's quite a variety. There's a really mean letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter. What a jerk. Now I will never reread The Great Gatsby and my lukewarm high school impression of it will have to stand forever. There are all kinds of breaking up letters and even an excommunication letter. Pretty interesting.

Finally, I read I Was Told There'd be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Just another book I wish I'd written.

This is a book of funny essays. It makes me think optimistically, "I could write a book like this!" While at the same time making me feel depressed, "This book has already been written." It's really good in a quirky David-Sedaris kind of way. I'm quite sure you would like it--if you're into that sort of thing.

Bottoms up! (Book bottoms, that is.)

27 comments:

  1. The Glass Castle IS disturbing, but somehow sort of positive too. I couldn't put it down. I read some reviews later that said the author probably made a lot of it up. I don't know if I agree or not.

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  2. Thanks for reading and reviewing my book. I'm glad you liked it.

    I enjoyed The Glass Castle enough that I read her other book, Half-Broke Horses, a biography of her grandmother. It was very different, but really good.

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  3. I always love your reading lists. There is a movie about that WWI story, it's called Joyeux Noël. Now I have to read the book.

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  4. Do you think The Truce would be a good read for Holden? He is picky about books it's insane. He refuses to read anything to do with fantasy/sci fi, and actually really likes nonfiction (history of the Jeep in particular). I need some good suggestions! Thanks for all the other book ideas, too.

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  5. I read Outliers this month too! I loved it and am reading the Tipping Point right now but so far I like it but don't love it as much as Outliers. Have you read Blink? Also What the Dog Saw is good.

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  6. Downton Abbey is really good but it ended on Sunday. You can get it on Netflix though or maybe PBS will rerun it if you check your TiVo.

    Also I really enjoy Blue Bloods even though that may not be cool to admit.

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  7. Joyeux Noel is a fantastic movie...it will make you bawl your eyes out and the actors are great. It's such a good story, I will have to get my hands on the book.

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  8. When you write your book will you send me a copy in the mail? Thanks.

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  9. Also liked glass castle and half-broke horses. Also have the man who liked books too much on my list. Also love your book lists. Also want to read your book when you write it.

    Coming up for women's conference (if can wean infant son). Want to go to dinner with me and my mom and sister?

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  10. I LOVE your books reviews. It saves me from wandering aimlessly around the library looking for a neat cover. Because I really am one of those people who judge a book by it's cover.

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  11. January was reading month for me too. I sort of forgot about books last year, but in 2011 I've already read 6, including The Glass Castle. It really bothered me when my husband picked it up after I had read it and after the first few chapters said, "This reminds me of my childhood." AH! That is not the parenting model we're going for.

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  12. I also love to read books like you, when you write your book plz inform me.

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  13. Glass Castle and Half-Broke Horses were both excellent. I thought reading about the grandmother's life helped you understand the totally dysfunctional mother in Glass Castle.

    And I'm going to try Truce, since I loved Joyeus Noel. There are many iterations of that famous event - and every one I've read has been a good read.

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  14. I also recommend Joyeaux Noel. If you like the story you'll like the movie.

    There is also a picture book about it but I can't think of the title.

    I read The Glass Castle recently as well and liked it. I'm in the middle of Half-Broke Horses. I also decided to re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which has a few similar veins. If that is even an expression. Anyway Walls talked about how she read ATGiB and related to Francie.

    Just put Outliers on hold at the library; thanks for the tip! I can't believe how many books you get through in a month. Well, I guess I can because your kids are a little older. I go through phases of reading tons and tons but honestly, it's almost impossible for me to read without ignoring my kids (both of whom are home with me most of the time). Luckily they are old enough now that they don't mind being ignored too much.

    Anyway, I always enjoy your book reviews so thanks!

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  15. ...And what I mean about ignoring my kids, is really that it's almost impossible for me to read for only a few minutes at a time. When I start a book I have a hard time putting it down. (If I don't have a hard time putting it down then I stop reading it--not worth my time if I'm not that interested.) Anyway but I should probably develop some kind of discipline to keep from reading all day and into the night. that might make a book last a week instead of 2 days and the withdrawal period might be easier. I sound like an addict; I guess I am.

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  16. Have you read A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY or THE SHIPPING NEWS?

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  17. Current TV enjoyment:
    Castle
    Psych
    They aren't groundbreaking, but Psych is super funny and Castle has Nathan Fillion (of Firefly fame) in it, which gives me joy.

    I am hearing great stuff about Portlandia, but I haven't checked it out yet.

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  18. Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. Maybe I've already suggested this but with your love of music and play list talent, it seems like a good one for you. It makes me cry I laugh so hard.

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  19. There is a movie of Truce- it's call Joyeux Noel. I watched it at BYU's International Cinema and cried like a baby.

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  20. Update on Portlandia- some parts are pretty funny, some are completely stupid and some totally inappropriate. You may not get any of it if you don't live here ( in Portland), so I would not recommend it.

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  21. Downton Abbey starts streaming on Feb. 9th! And yes, Joyeux Noel! It's a beautiful film.

    And you really should go get food with Beeswax and her mom. They are both awesome. Maybe I should fly out for Womens' Conference.

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  22. Also, do you watch "Modern Family?" Because I think it is fantastic.

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  23. I can't wait for when you write a book.

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  24. I loved Half Broke Horses more than the Glass Castle, because the stories were just as fascinating, but less pathetic.

    And speaking of WWI, I just read The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein, which is a memoir he wrote in his 90s! He was a child during WWI. Pretty incredible to be so lucid at his age. I really liked it.

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  25. You'd probably really like Notes From the Underwire by Quinn Cummings. More funny essays. And I mean that as "in addition to," not as in, "I don't know the superlative form of more."

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  26. I wish you had written "I Was Told There'd Be Cake" because then I probably would have liked it. I think you are hilarious, and Sloan Crosley just thinks she is. I could barely get through it, and only finished it because I kept waiting for the essay that would change my mind, but it just never happened.

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  27. I read Half Broke Horses before I read The Glass Castle, and having the background from the first just made me more confused about why, why? Rosemary did such crazy town things. But I absolutely loved both books

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