Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Report

With all the celebrity gossip I've been dishing, you'd think I don't read anything but the tabloids. But I don't actually read tabloids. I read books, though I've not read as much this year as usual.

I've gotten a little behind in my book reports. So here's an update.

I read Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. Frankly, I thought it would bug me. I'm sick of France. I know everyone loves it, but where does that leave me? Not in France. That's where. But Druckerman has a very non-annoying attitude about France. She's realistic and curious about France. She wonders about parents the way I do. I actually liked this book and found it interesting with some good advice about parenting. Mainly the French are a bit more hands-off than Americans. They let kids be kids and they don't schedule their whole lives around their kids' whims.

Worth a read. If you're so inclined.

I had a life-changing experience reading This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can't by Augusten Burroughs. It's a unique self-help book with humor and a major dose of paradigm shift. Not all of it will be relevant to you. There are chapters about losing weight, overcoming addiction, dealing with death and even shyness. I'm reading a book I really like now called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking which reminds me of it a little. I am not dealing with most of the issues Burroughs discusses, but I really like what he has to say. I think it is helpful. I highly recommend this book. It has some swearing, but for me the insight was worth it.

Burroughs has had a rough life. He has fixed himself and he tells you how he did it and how you can do it too. One of the things he says is that parents are a luxury. Of course, I think parenting is very important. But if you had imperfect parents you can certainly get over it. I have a nearly perfect mom. But some of my memories about my parents' divorce are sad and bother me. This book helped me think about things in a different way. He tells this story. Say you drove past the remains of a car crash with a burned car seat and you are deeply disturbed and saddened by it. You may even feel depression because of it. But what if the reality of the accident was that it was one driver who survived the accident and was just dropping off a car seat at a preschool, or something like that. You would have no reason to be disturbed or depressed about seeing the remains.

Much of what we see are just remains and we have imperfect perceptions about the details, especially when the details involve another person's perspective. Another story Burroughs tells is about a woman whose son drank himself to death. Her experience is horrible, for sure. But he asked her what she felt the worst about and it was that she wasn't there for her son in his last few moments. That is what nagged at her and made it so she could not move on. Burroughs told her—and this was not in a callous way or to minimize her loss—that as a recovering alcoholic himself he could assure her that in those last drunk moments her son probably actually felt happy. She was feeling remorse for an imagined scenario that never happened. Of course, she still had to deal with the loss of her son. But this insight changed everything for her and let her forgive herself for a perceived failing.

That's heavy. I know.

That's why I also read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. This was one of my 40th year birthday books from my friend Jenny Eckton. I have a few very good close friends. Jenny is one of them. That's why she gave me this book which I loved. You've probably already read it. I, personally, read it last year. But if you haven't go ahead and read it now.  It's funny and interesting—Not as good as Tina Fey's book (Kaling would be the first to admit it), but close. I didn't love the first few episodes of The Mindy Project, but it's gotten funnier and funnier and it's one of my favorite shows now. It makes me laugh out loud.

I should say, I've given up on my dream of writing a book. Maybe Babble has burned me out on it. Maybe my Simon and Schuster rejection based on not enough Facebook friends bummed me out on it. But Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the 20th Century's Bestsellers by James Hall was still a fascinating read. It synthesizes and analyzes what bestsellers have in common. Really great read. It made me want to scheme up a bestseller. But I won't. But I could. But, I won't. Sigh.

Anyway, it doesn't matter whether I write a book or not. You should read this one or give it to your parents. It's probably the kind of thing thing your mom will get a kick out of. It mentions Gone With the Wind.

I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein on my Nook. I seem to always forget my Nook books. I do prefer a real book. Anyway, this was a good story. It's about female spies during WW II. I love spying.

I think this is Young Adult fiction. Whatever its classification, it's the story of two young women who become pilots, spies, and best friends during the war. One of them is captured.

This story s about friendship, bravery, and loyalty with some good twists.

I've had the Tolkien Bestiary by David Day on our bookshelves for years. I think Christian bought it for me before we had kids. Or I bought it for him? Anyway, after The Hobbit movie came out I read it from cover to cover. So sue me.

This is a nicely illustrated encyclopedia of the Tolkien world. He created such a comprehensive, beautiful world. Tolkien is another reason I'll never write a book. Why not just spend the time reading Tolkien?

I read In the Woods by Tana French after I read it's sequel a few years ago. It's ok to read her books out of order. She chooses a different character to write about each time. Tana French is a great Irish mystery writer. I really love her writing. And she tells good stories that are compelling. But I am so mad at this book and I'll tell you why.

 (It's a spoiler.)

This book is about a murder or kidnapping and one of the most fascinating details of it—that the child who survives has blood soaked shoes and socks, blood soaked from the outside, in—is NEVER EXPLAINED. It was basically the thing I was most interested in finding out about and she never solves it. I'll tell you what I think. She doesn't know. She couldn't figure it out and so she wrote the next book from a different point of view as an "artistic choice" to hide the fact that she doesn't know how to resolve this. I've heard her on Diane Rehm. I love her. I hate her.

Of the fiction on this list, I recommend M.L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans the most. It's just a lovely, interesting story. It would make a great book for your book club. Our book club enjoyed reading and discussing it. It's about a couple who leave their hometown to tend a light house on a small island. They are newly married and want to start a family. One day they find a boat washed up on shore with a dead man and a crying baby in it. You'll have to read it to find out what happens after that.

Well. I've given you much to think about. Let me know if you've read any of these and how you liked them. I'm also looking for book recommendations so let them rip in the comments.


  1. I read the Bebe book, and like you, am sick of France (it's the new Tuscany), and like you, enjoyed the book. I like that French parents aren't such namby-pamby doormats.

  2. Just ordered two of these! Thanks for the recommendations. I had been wondering what to read next.

  3. I read The Light Between Oceans on a road trip and my husband kept looking over and saying "what is going on with you???" because I kept crying. The scene where she washes her baby? It kills me.
    I just finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and loved it. Same kind of story as Light Between Oceans--gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, but mixed in with hope and love and beauty.
    I am starting the second book from the author of Code Name Verity (Rose Under Fire)--hopefully it is as good as the first. It's companion novel, not a sequel.

    1. I'll have to read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Bringing Up Bebe and The Light Between Oceans have both been on my to-read list for a while now. I need to bump them up.
    My recent reads are all nonfiction. If the Church Were Christian by Phillip Gulley looks at what would be different about Christians if we truly followed the example of Jesus. It was a quick read and very inspiring.
    Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell starts off slow, going into a lot of detail about the evolution of discount retailing and outlet malls, etc., but then the chapters on IKEA, Chinese manufacturing, and our cheap food are really eye-opening and sort of depressing. But in a good way, I guess?
    And finally, I loved The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich. It's about a bunch of women who sued Newsweek for sex discrimination in 1970. I think you would really like it.

  5. Thanks, Sarah. Those sound really interesting.

  6. I needed a new book to read. (I keep re-reading my go-to books.) Thanks!

  7. I like how you report on books. I have such a long list to tackle...


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