Posts tagged with what i've read:

Currently reading

Don’t know yet if I’ll post whole reviews of these, but I’ve been mentioning over on Twitter how I am completely engrossed in the MH 370 shitshow. That spiraled into a general aviation book hunt and I just finished with a summary of aviation disasters so basically I’m never going to stop reading about airplanes. ANYWAY.

(You should have seen when I was obsessed with submarines. And—as I’ve pointed out to Brandon—at least I’m not reading about serial killers…anymore.) 

I had a few people ask on Twitter what books I’ve been reading so here is a short list if you’d like to venture into the abyss with me:

  • Fly by Wire by William Langewiesche - This is very well-written, not too technical. It gives a great overview of fly by wire aircraft and intertwines general aviation history/the origin of fly by wire aircraft/etc. with the story of the Hudson River landing in 2009. 
  • Understanding Air France 447 by Bill Palmer - This is a highly technical account of the Air France 447 tragedy. I was fascinated by how technical it was—and I’m glad I read it after Fly by Wire.
  • Black Box by Nicholas Faith - Overviews and analysis of some of the most complex and notorious airplane crashes.

We (by “we,” I mean just me but it sounds better to say we) also watched the TWA Flight 800 documentary on Netflix a few days ago. If you like conspiracy theories (WHO DOESN’T), you are guaranteed to lose at least a few additional hours post-documentary scouring the Internet for more information. 

P.S. By the way, here’s the submarine book I read in the 7th or 8th grade that started everything. HAVE FUN.

 

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Been reading a lot of nonfiction lately (including a lot of airplane-related books but those are for a later review). 
What I’ve Read:
Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston - This is a sobering book. No pun intended—really. The research and anecdotal evidence that Johnston presents is a somber, thought-provoking look at the modern woman’s relationship with alcohol. Johnston, a recovering alcoholic, sets a foundation for the research she cites by telling about her own history with alcohol and her fight to get sober and stay sober. The book does not coddle or waste your time. Johnston has a very specific message she’s trying to get across and it is vividly (painfully) real from the first page. Johnston’s lifelong struggle with having an alcoholic mother made her swear she would never do the same thing to her family and it is heartbreaking to read how subtly, sneakily she began to walk down the same path. There is something startling about reading a book that describes so perfectly the way that I know I (and many other women, friends, coworkers) feel about alcohol. Johnston describes the ever-increasing pressures on women and how this relates to the pressure release valve of the first glass of wine at the end of a long day. God knows I can relate to that. In one portion, Johnston talks about how she loved even the ritual of opening the bottle—removing the cork, hearing the wine glug into the glass, the first warming sip. I have never been a big drinker, but I admit that over the past—oh, 4?— years, my relationship to wine has gotten…closer. This book is worth anyone’s time to read, but I encourage fellow women to pick it up. Her close examination of the way modern women drink (and her research about how women metabolize alcohol differently than men) was eye-opening. In one portion, she cites a CDC report that says female binge drinking (four or more drinks on one occasion in the past month) is a serious unrecognized problem. “Almost 14 million American girls and women binge drink an average of three times each month, typically consuming six drinks per bingeing episode. Meanwhile, one in five high school girls binge drinks.” The age of women most likely to binge drink? Women aged 18-34 with higher household incomes. The health risks Johnston points to are acute: breast cancer, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. She also points out that binge drinkers aren’t necessarily addicted to alcohol. It’s just the way modern women have learned to drink. She cites many reasons for this: The marketing of alcohol specifically to women (Skinnygirl products, for example), the tendency for high school and college-aged women to drink clear liquors like vodka to avoid calories (and thus developing a taste early on for stronger alcoholic drinks), etc. At one point, Johnston writes: “Women need a break. They feel they deserve a break. And if drinking is about escape, it is also about entitlement and empowerment.” At another point, she says, “Has alcohol become the modern woman’s steroid, enabling her to do the heavy lifting necessary in an endlessly complex world? Is it the escape valve women need, in the midst of a major social revolution still unfolding? How much of this is marketing, and how much is the need to numb?” I thought about that for a long time. I’m still thinking about it. 
All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior - If you are a parent or thinking about becoming a parent at some point, you should read this book. I have read some very terrible, very mediocre and very, very good parenting books and this one is very, very good. Instead of looking at how parents affect children, this book looks exclusively at how people are affected once they become parents. It’s a wonderful, much-needed point of view. The book is a combination of research and in-depth interviews with parents and the result is very readable and moves quite quickly. One paragraph in particular stood out to me: “The phrase ‘having it all’ has little to do with what women want. If anything, it’s a reflection of a widespread and misplaced cultural belief, shared by men and women alike: that we, as middle-class Americans, have been given infinite promise, and it’s our obligation to exploit every ounce of it. ‘Having it all’ is the phrase of a culture, that as Adam Phillips implies in Missing Out, is tyrannized by the idea of its own potential.” Thank God. I have never hated a phrase more. Instead of showing why parents can’t have it all or posturing that yes, you can have it all (you just must follow this advice to the letter), this book finally drills into the origins and expectations that the idea of “having it all” encompasses. What is it about our ideas of parenting that lead us to believe it will be something that it often is not? The world of parenting I am most familiar with is the one on blogs. If you look at that microcosm in the larger context of this book and parenting at large, you can begin to see why women especially are (often quietly) wondering why they don’t measure up. Why isn’t it the perfect happiness they were led to believe it would be? Why is it…actual work? How am I sleep deprived, ready to lose my mind, want to murder my partner and this other mom looks beautiful, well-rested and is dressing her child in $80 organic cotton onesies? Why is parenting so hard for ME? This book shows parenting in a light that few other books detail. Because it’s not focused on the “how’s” of parenting, it paints an accurate (research-backed) look at actual parenting. The affects of sleep deprivation. The ways that a marriage or partnership can change—more commonly for the worse—once a child has entered the picture. (The chapter on how each parent in a partnership is always convinced that he or she has had the more difficult week made me shudder in recognition.) I particularly enjoyed the chapters about raising older children too. I feel I am stuck in a baby/toddler parenting vortex and there is little I can see (or want to see) outside of that. I know that’s due to my own preferences (I don’t need to read articles about parenting teenagers right now), but parenting websites are so heavily geared toward younger children. Will that shift as our generation grows and our children grow too? Or will there always be a gap there? Senior has an interesting hypothesis about this. “It’s not an accident that most parenting blogs are written by mothers and fathers of small children. Part of it, yes, is that these parents are responding to the novelty of their situation. But part of it, too, is that the challenges they’re writing about are usually so generic that they’re betraying no confidences in revealing them. It does not violate your children’s privacy to say they detest peas, and it’s not a particularly poor reflection on your parenting either. Whereas writing about adolescents is different.” Senior talks about how this, and many other things, contribute to parents of adolescents feeling very isolated. Lots of food for thought here and I may reread the book again soon to pick up on some things I may have missed. I highly recommend it—and as I said before, if you are considering having children at some point and especially if you are considering having them soon, this book should certainly be added to your to-read list. 
Would love to hear your thoughts. Have you read either book?

Been reading a lot of nonfiction lately (including a lot of airplane-related books but those are for a later review). 

What I’ve Read:

  • Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston - This is a sobering book. No pun intended—really. The research and anecdotal evidence that Johnston presents is a somber, thought-provoking look at the modern woman’s relationship with alcohol. Johnston, a recovering alcoholic, sets a foundation for the research she cites by telling about her own history with alcohol and her fight to get sober and stay sober. The book does not coddle or waste your time. Johnston has a very specific message she’s trying to get across and it is vividly (painfully) real from the first page. Johnston’s lifelong struggle with having an alcoholic mother made her swear she would never do the same thing to her family and it is heartbreaking to read how subtly, sneakily she began to walk down the same path. There is something startling about reading a book that describes so perfectly the way that I know I (and many other women, friends, coworkers) feel about alcohol. Johnston describes the ever-increasing pressures on women and how this relates to the pressure release valve of the first glass of wine at the end of a long day. God knows I can relate to that. In one portion, Johnston talks about how she loved even the ritual of opening the bottle—removing the cork, hearing the wine glug into the glass, the first warming sip. I have never been a big drinker, but I admit that over the past—oh, 4?— years, my relationship to wine has gotten…closer. This book is worth anyone’s time to read, but I encourage fellow women to pick it up. Her close examination of the way modern women drink (and her research about how women metabolize alcohol differently than men) was eye-opening. In one portion, she cites a CDC report that says female binge drinking (four or more drinks on one occasion in the past month) is a serious unrecognized problem. “Almost 14 million American girls and women binge drink an average of three times each month, typically consuming six drinks per bingeing episode. Meanwhile, one in five high school girls binge drinks.” The age of women most likely to binge drink? Women aged 18-34 with higher household incomes. The health risks Johnston points to are acute: breast cancer, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. She also points out that binge drinkers aren’t necessarily addicted to alcohol. It’s just the way modern women have learned to drink. She cites many reasons for this: The marketing of alcohol specifically to women (Skinnygirl products, for example), the tendency for high school and college-aged women to drink clear liquors like vodka to avoid calories (and thus developing a taste early on for stronger alcoholic drinks), etc. At one point, Johnston writes: “Women need a break. They feel they deserve a break. And if drinking is about escape, it is also about entitlement and empowerment.” At another point, she says, “Has alcohol become the modern woman’s steroid, enabling her to do the heavy lifting necessary in an endlessly complex world? Is it the escape valve women need, in the midst of a major social revolution still unfolding? How much of this is marketing, and how much is the need to numb?” I thought about that for a long time. I’m still thinking about it. 
  • All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior - If you are a parent or thinking about becoming a parent at some point, you should read this book. I have read some very terrible, very mediocre and very, very good parenting books and this one is very, very good. Instead of looking at how parents affect children, this book looks exclusively at how people are affected once they become parents. It’s a wonderful, much-needed point of view. The book is a combination of research and in-depth interviews with parents and the result is very readable and moves quite quickly. One paragraph in particular stood out to me: “The phrase ‘having it all’ has little to do with what women want. If anything, it’s a reflection of a widespread and misplaced cultural belief, shared by men and women alike: that we, as middle-class Americans, have been given infinite promise, and it’s our obligation to exploit every ounce of it. ‘Having it all’ is the phrase of a culture, that as Adam Phillips implies in Missing Out, is tyrannized by the idea of its own potential.” Thank God. I have never hated a phrase more. Instead of showing why parents can’t have it all or posturing that yes, you can have it all (you just must follow this advice to the letter), this book finally drills into the origins and expectations that the idea of “having it all” encompasses. What is it about our ideas of parenting that lead us to believe it will be something that it often is not? The world of parenting I am most familiar with is the one on blogs. If you look at that microcosm in the larger context of this book and parenting at large, you can begin to see why women especially are (often quietly) wondering why they don’t measure up. Why isn’t it the perfect happiness they were led to believe it would be? Why is it…actual work? How am I sleep deprived, ready to lose my mind, want to murder my partner and this other mom looks beautiful, well-rested and is dressing her child in $80 organic cotton onesies? Why is parenting so hard for ME? This book shows parenting in a light that few other books detail. Because it’s not focused on the “how’s” of parenting, it paints an accurate (research-backed) look at actual parenting. The affects of sleep deprivation. The ways that a marriage or partnership can change—more commonly for the worse—once a child has entered the picture. (The chapter on how each parent in a partnership is always convinced that he or she has had the more difficult week made me shudder in recognition.) I particularly enjoyed the chapters about raising older children too. I feel I am stuck in a baby/toddler parenting vortex and there is little I can see (or want to see) outside of that. I know that’s due to my own preferences (I don’t need to read articles about parenting teenagers right now), but parenting websites are so heavily geared toward younger children. Will that shift as our generation grows and our children grow too? Or will there always be a gap there? Senior has an interesting hypothesis about this. “It’s not an accident that most parenting blogs are written by mothers and fathers of small children. Part of it, yes, is that these parents are responding to the novelty of their situation. But part of it, too, is that the challenges they’re writing about are usually so generic that they’re betraying no confidences in revealing them. It does not violate your children’s privacy to say they detest peas, and it’s not a particularly poor reflection on your parenting either. Whereas writing about adolescents is different.” Senior talks about how this, and many other things, contribute to parents of adolescents feeling very isolated. Lots of food for thought here and I may reread the book again soon to pick up on some things I may have missed. I highly recommend it—and as I said before, if you are considering having children at some point and especially if you are considering having them soon, this book should certainly be added to your to-read list. 

Would love to hear your thoughts. Have you read either book?

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What I’ve Read:
Submergence by J. M. Ledgard - Both books I’m reviewing in this post are sensory treats, but this is the darker of the two. Submergence is about James More, an English spy who is captured by Somalia-based jihadists in the opening of the book. The rest of the tale—mainly about his love affair with an oceanographer he meets a hotel just before the Somalia trip—is explored in flashbacks, while their present stories are told in parallel through the end of the book. Danielle, the oceanographer, is unaware that James has been kidnapped, and is simply working and preparing for a research expedition to study deep-sea vents. (“Into the abyss” is a heavy-handed metaphor, but it works here.) The book goes back and forth between mostly straightforward prose (describing characters, conversations, happenings) and almost poetic philosophical “shorts” that become the thread tying all of it together. It was a beautiful, sad, thought-provoking book to read. Not a light read, but I’ve had enough of those lately. 
Alena by Rachel Pastan - I heard about this book and another (reviewed here) in an NPR interview and I’m so glad I read it. It’s a modern retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and manages to capture some of the original intrigue from that book while re-imagining the setting and characters in exciting, new ways. We never learn the name of our protagonist, but we do know she met the owner of a Cape Cod-based art museum in Venice while attending an art festival and after spending some time with him there, accepted his offer to become the new curator of his museum. The former curator—Alena—disappeared mysteriously, but is assumed to have been swept out to sea during one of her regular nighttime ocean swims. Relatively inexperienced, the protagonist stumbles into the prestigious job with insecurities about her creative vision, made worse by the fact that the ghost of Alena haunts her incessantly. Alena’s office. Alena’s brilliance. Her beauty, confidence, worldliness. Everything about the museum is Alena and she struggles to find her place, while also navigating the relationship with her strangely distant new boss, the friendly town sheriff and the Alena-obsessed museum employees she now manages. The descriptions of contemporary art are reason enough to read this. The artwork is brought to life so realistically that it seemed I was actually looking at them. The Cape Cod setting is another highlight. The ocean plays a huge role in the book and the stormy, windy, unpredictable shoreline could almost be a separate character. There is a major difference between Alena and Rebecca (that I won’t spoil for you) and it recast the story and the relationships between the characters differently, but not in an unsatisfying way. I liked the modern spin, really enjoyed the book and found the last few pages especially good. 
I’m reading Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston now but am prowling for a new book for when I’m done with it. Any suggestions?

What I’ve Read:

  • Submergence by J. M. Ledgard - Both books I’m reviewing in this post are sensory treats, but this is the darker of the two. Submergence is about James More, an English spy who is captured by Somalia-based jihadists in the opening of the book. The rest of the tale—mainly about his love affair with an oceanographer he meets a hotel just before the Somalia trip—is explored in flashbacks, while their present stories are told in parallel through the end of the book. Danielle, the oceanographer, is unaware that James has been kidnapped, and is simply working and preparing for a research expedition to study deep-sea vents. (“Into the abyss” is a heavy-handed metaphor, but it works here.) The book goes back and forth between mostly straightforward prose (describing characters, conversations, happenings) and almost poetic philosophical “shorts” that become the thread tying all of it together. It was a beautiful, sad, thought-provoking book to read. Not a light read, but I’ve had enough of those lately. 
  • Alena by Rachel Pastan - I heard about this book and another (reviewed here) in an NPR interview and I’m so glad I read it. It’s a modern retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and manages to capture some of the original intrigue from that book while re-imagining the setting and characters in exciting, new ways. We never learn the name of our protagonist, but we do know she met the owner of a Cape Cod-based art museum in Venice while attending an art festival and after spending some time with him there, accepted his offer to become the new curator of his museum. The former curator—Alena—disappeared mysteriously, but is assumed to have been swept out to sea during one of her regular nighttime ocean swims. Relatively inexperienced, the protagonist stumbles into the prestigious job with insecurities about her creative vision, made worse by the fact that the ghost of Alena haunts her incessantly. Alena’s office. Alena’s brilliance. Her beauty, confidence, worldliness. Everything about the museum is Alena and she struggles to find her place, while also navigating the relationship with her strangely distant new boss, the friendly town sheriff and the Alena-obsessed museum employees she now manages. The descriptions of contemporary art are reason enough to read this. The artwork is brought to life so realistically that it seemed I was actually looking at them. The Cape Cod setting is another highlight. The ocean plays a huge role in the book and the stormy, windy, unpredictable shoreline could almost be a separate character. There is a major difference between Alena and Rebecca (that I won’t spoil for you) and it recast the story and the relationships between the characters differently, but not in an unsatisfying way. I liked the modern spin, really enjoyed the book and found the last few pages especially good. 

I’m reading Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston now but am prowling for a new book for when I’m done with it. Any suggestions?

  • k 34 notes
What I’ve Read: The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol 
I heard the most charming review of this book (and another that I’m reading right now: Alena by Rachel Pastan) on NPR. I bought it as soon as I got my hands on my Kindle.
I wasn’t as charmed by the book as I was by the review, but it turned out to be the kind of light, palette-cleansing book that was exactly what I needed this week. 
The book was written in French and translated to English by two people and that (in hindsight) makes a lot of sense. The book can feel abruptly disjointed. Almost like two separate people translated it! -_____- Anyway, sometimes the prose flows well and other times it’s painfully obvious that French colloquialisms have been awkwardly transformed into English ones. Luckily I found this more of an annoyance than an actual distraction from the engaging story and characters. 
The book is about Josephine, a suburban Paris mom whose unemployed husband runs off to Kenya with his mistress to start a crocodile farm. To make matters worse, Josephine’s job as a researcher of 12th century France isn’t quite enough to pay the bills after her ex-husband takes out a loan in her name to get the crocodile farm underway. Left in financial straits (with a teenage and pre-teen daughter begging for new clothes and computers), she agrees to her wealthy/bored sister’s plan to ghostwrite a 12th century chick lit novel while her sister pretends to be the author and handles the promotion and interviews. Affairs, secrets and general mayhem ensues. (Of course.) 
Long story short? The book wasn’t perfect but it was fun. And fun is just right sometimes. 

What I’ve Read: The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol 

I heard the most charming review of this book (and another that I’m reading right now: Alena by Rachel Pastan) on NPR. I bought it as soon as I got my hands on my Kindle.

I wasn’t as charmed by the book as I was by the review, but it turned out to be the kind of light, palette-cleansing book that was exactly what I needed this week. 

The book was written in French and translated to English by two people and that (in hindsight) makes a lot of sense. The book can feel abruptly disjointed. Almost like two separate people translated it! -_____- Anyway, sometimes the prose flows well and other times it’s painfully obvious that French colloquialisms have been awkwardly transformed into English ones. Luckily I found this more of an annoyance than an actual distraction from the engaging story and characters. 

The book is about Josephine, a suburban Paris mom whose unemployed husband runs off to Kenya with his mistress to start a crocodile farm. To make matters worse, Josephine’s job as a researcher of 12th century France isn’t quite enough to pay the bills after her ex-husband takes out a loan in her name to get the crocodile farm underway. Left in financial straits (with a teenage and pre-teen daughter begging for new clothes and computers), she agrees to her wealthy/bored sister’s plan to ghostwrite a 12th century chick lit novel while her sister pretends to be the author and handles the promotion and interviews. Affairs, secrets and general mayhem ensues. (Of course.) 

Long story short? The book wasn’t perfect but it was fun. And fun is just right sometimes. 

  • k 8 notes
What I’ve Read
I’m way behind on reviews and couldn’t wait to share a few of these. 
The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg - I’ve given her books mediocre reviews before but this one—a continuation in her series about detective Patrik Hedstrom—is her best I’ve read yet. It was nuanced, thrilling and even though I figured out the BIG TWIST before the book revealed it, it didn’t feel like a letdown. 
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson - I’ve had this on my Kindle forever but finally got around to reading it after we saw the movie. (I know, I know.) Regarding the book itself, I was pleased that Robinson made a genuine effort to capture Luttrell’s unique voice. Instead of organizing the story into more of a standard ghost-written “clean” form, it’s obvious that Luttrell’s telling of the story was conveyed pretty accurately onto the page. The content of book is, of course, immensely sad and powerful. The first part of the book is fascinating too—detailing Luttrell’s military background and SEAL training. 
Eat and Run by Scott Jurek - Ultramarathons. What fresh fuckery are these? I used to run (no longer!) but never at very long distances and it made me tired just reading about this guy running 150 miles and WINNING. His accomplishments seem almost super-human, but the book is incredibly down-to-earth and even includes his favorite recipes and various running/cross-training tips. I sometimes think about this book at the gym because no matter how much I’m sweating, at least I’m not voluntarily running a 150 mile race in Death Valley. 
The Best American Crime Reporting (2008) compiled by Jonathan Kellerman - I bought this on the Kindle during a daily deal promotion or something and I’m going to read the other collections as soon as possible. I don’t know how I haven’t gotten my paws on these before (RIGHT IN MY WHEELHOUSE), but the shorter articles included are perfect for fitting in right before I pass out asleep at night. The content is varied and it’s all interesting, but I liked two articles especially. One was about Charles Cullen (the subject of this book I reviewed last year) and the other was about Chinese military murdering Tibetan refugees in sight of climbers at the base of Cho Oyu. Pretty haunting. 
Remote by Jason Fried and David Hansson - If you work remotely or want to work remotely, this book is a must-read. It’s short, concise and fascinating. I expected it to include more strategy about the implementation or mechanics of remote working, but it focuses more deeply on why remote employees make sense and why employers need to take a closer look at the advantages of remote work. I wish there had been more of the former, but it was still worth the read. This is a subject that I think will see a lot more attention paid to it over the next 5-10 years and I enjoyed this as an opening act to what will likely become a pretty heated, ongoing conversation in the nonfiction book world about work flexibility and remote employees. As a side note, it’s written by the two founders of 37signals—I use their products for my work—and I liked hearing their philosophies in the context of how Basecamp, etc., make my job so much easier. 
Rustication by Charles Palliser - This is a contender for one of my top books of the year already but we’ve got a long way to go. Rustication really confounded me. I loved it, then hated it, then REALLY LOVED HATING IT then just plain loved it when it completely fooled me in the end. Rustication refers to the archaic term for being suspended from school for doing something naughty. In this case, our quite unlikable little protagonist Richard Shenstone is sent home from his school for reasons not quite explained but may have something to do with his opium addiction. He arrives at his family’s large but shabby and creepy home to find things looking a little suspicious—then VERY suspicious. He doesn’t know who he can trust and rumors and bloody happenings in his small town up the spook factor with each page. It’s the anti-Downton Abbey mixed with a little bit of the recent movie The Woman in Black and it pulled me ALL the way in. One more thing: The plot twists are pretty insane and I admit that they caught me completely by surprise. I love that. 
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed - What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? Not much, probably. I bought this book a long time ago and didn’t touch it. I wasn’t ready to read it because, by all accounts, it would turn me into a quivering emotional mess and yes, that is accurate. It did. But it’s worth the emotional breakdown because in the end, I did feel like I was seeing things with a new compassionate clarity that was missing almost entirely before. If you’re looking for something to do tonight, I can think of no better book to start on Valentine’s Day than this. Not because it’s romantic or sweet or any of those treacly Valentine’s Day things. No—you should read it because it’s about loving yourself, choosing your truth and discovering that even the most unthinkable things or the most grievous mistakes don’t have to just be an ending. They can be a beginning too. 
What are you guys reading these days?

What I’ve Read

I’m way behind on reviews and couldn’t wait to share a few of these. 

  • The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg - I’ve given her books mediocre reviews before but this one—a continuation in her series about detective Patrik Hedstrom—is her best I’ve read yet. It was nuanced, thrilling and even though I figured out the BIG TWIST before the book revealed it, it didn’t feel like a letdown. 
  • Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson - I’ve had this on my Kindle forever but finally got around to reading it after we saw the movie. (I know, I know.) Regarding the book itself, I was pleased that Robinson made a genuine effort to capture Luttrell’s unique voice. Instead of organizing the story into more of a standard ghost-written “clean” form, it’s obvious that Luttrell’s telling of the story was conveyed pretty accurately onto the page. The content of book is, of course, immensely sad and powerful. The first part of the book is fascinating too—detailing Luttrell’s military background and SEAL training. 
  • Eat and Run by Scott Jurek - Ultramarathons. What fresh fuckery are these? I used to run (no longer!) but never at very long distances and it made me tired just reading about this guy running 150 miles and WINNING. His accomplishments seem almost super-human, but the book is incredibly down-to-earth and even includes his favorite recipes and various running/cross-training tips. I sometimes think about this book at the gym because no matter how much I’m sweating, at least I’m not voluntarily running a 150 mile race in Death Valley. 
  • The Best American Crime Reporting (2008) compiled by Jonathan Kellerman - I bought this on the Kindle during a daily deal promotion or something and I’m going to read the other collections as soon as possible. I don’t know how I haven’t gotten my paws on these before (RIGHT IN MY WHEELHOUSE), but the shorter articles included are perfect for fitting in right before I pass out asleep at night. The content is varied and it’s all interesting, but I liked two articles especially. One was about Charles Cullen (the subject of this book I reviewed last year) and the other was about Chinese military murdering Tibetan refugees in sight of climbers at the base of Cho Oyu. Pretty haunting. 
  • Remote by Jason Fried and David Hansson - If you work remotely or want to work remotely, this book is a must-read. It’s short, concise and fascinating. I expected it to include more strategy about the implementation or mechanics of remote working, but it focuses more deeply on why remote employees make sense and why employers need to take a closer look at the advantages of remote work. I wish there had been more of the former, but it was still worth the read. This is a subject that I think will see a lot more attention paid to it over the next 5-10 years and I enjoyed this as an opening act to what will likely become a pretty heated, ongoing conversation in the nonfiction book world about work flexibility and remote employees. As a side note, it’s written by the two founders of 37signals—I use their products for my work—and I liked hearing their philosophies in the context of how Basecamp, etc., make my job so much easier. 
  • Rustication by Charles Palliser - This is a contender for one of my top books of the year already but we’ve got a long way to go. Rustication really confounded me. I loved it, then hated it, then REALLY LOVED HATING IT then just plain loved it when it completely fooled me in the end. Rustication refers to the archaic term for being suspended from school for doing something naughty. In this case, our quite unlikable little protagonist Richard Shenstone is sent home from his school for reasons not quite explained but may have something to do with his opium addiction. He arrives at his family’s large but shabby and creepy home to find things looking a little suspicious—then VERY suspicious. He doesn’t know who he can trust and rumors and bloody happenings in his small town up the spook factor with each page. It’s the anti-Downton Abbey mixed with a little bit of the recent movie The Woman in Black and it pulled me ALL the way in. One more thing: The plot twists are pretty insane and I admit that they caught me completely by surprise. I love that. 
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed - What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? Not much, probably. I bought this book a long time ago and didn’t touch it. I wasn’t ready to read it because, by all accounts, it would turn me into a quivering emotional mess and yes, that is accurate. It did. But it’s worth the emotional breakdown because in the end, I did feel like I was seeing things with a new compassionate clarity that was missing almost entirely before. If you’re looking for something to do tonight, I can think of no better book to start on Valentine’s Day than this. Not because it’s romantic or sweet or any of those treacly Valentine’s Day things. No—you should read it because it’s about loving yourself, choosing your truth and discovering that even the most unthinkable things or the most grievous mistakes don’t have to just be an ending. They can be a beginning too. 

What are you guys reading these days?

  • k 26 notes
This is the neatest gift for a book-lover. It’s a set of notecards that are reproductions of Library of Congress’ card catalog placeholders for classic books. It’s just $20 from Modcloth. 

This is the neatest gift for a book-lover. It’s a set of notecards that are reproductions of Library of Congress’ card catalog placeholders for classic books. It’s just $20 from Modcloth. 

  • k 70 notes

I'm embarrassed to admit I have never read any Stephen King. Which book do you think is best to start with?

- Asked by takenbythesky

I love this question! 

My first Stephen King was The Stand so I’m partial to it as a starting point. It’s amazing and suspenseful enough to really get you hooked on his writing. Beware though: It’s really long. (A lot of his books are really long. Settle in!) 

A lot of purists believe in reading his books by publication date, but that’s a hell of a lot of books and a really daunting list. The reasons for doing so are valid though: There are a lot of overlapping locations, characters and easter eggs you’ll start to pick up on if you do it this way. Of course, some books are overtly connected (The Dark Tower series or books with sequels). 

Anyway, once you’ve read The Stand, read Carrie. Normally I’d recommend The Shining after Carrie, but hold off for a little bit. Instead read The Dead Zone. (The Dead Zone is another one of my favorites.) Salem’s Lot would be another good one to read here. Then Cujo. Pet Sematary after Cujo. 

And now you’re ready for It. (Although I don’t think anyone is ever fully ready for It.) 

Once you’ve recovered, you’ll need a palette cleanser. Time for The Green Mile

If you like dystopian-type stuff, The Long Walk and The Running Man are shorter, intense reads that would be good to sneak in at this point. 

Okay—now haul out The Shining. Once you’re done that, read Doctor Sleep

At this point, you’ll have read enough of his books to really appreciate the genius detail, plotting and characterization of 11/22/63, the book that I will name as my favorite King if I’m pushed to choose only one. 

I have to mention the Dark Tower series before I go because it is a vitally important part of his body of work, but you may want to hold off on reading them until you have finished many of his other books. It’s King at his most dense and metaphorical—best enjoyed once you have some of his other stories under your belt. 

Do you have any suggestions?

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Best and Worst Books I Read in 2013

image

I didn’t expect to read many books this year. There was no particular reason for this outlook—just a general feeling I had last January. I was a little pessimistic. I set a goal of 50. And then I surprised myself! I read over 70. Some were Kindle Singles (is that cheating?), but I included them anyway. 

This turned out to be a good year for reading. I had multiple moments where I thought I would never be able to top my last read and then the next book would blow me away. There are a few books that I know will go down as all-time, life-changing favorites for me.

2013 as a whole was not my favorite year, but I will look back fondly on the very excellent books  that came into my life in the past twelve months. 

The Best Books:

Best Fiction: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Best Nonfiction: Going Clear by Lawrence Wright

Best Memoir: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Best Parenting Book: Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Best Short Read: Murder in the Yoga Store by Peter Ross Range

And here are the rest:

Read Today

Read Later

Don’t Bother

To read my reviews of these books, follow me on Goodreads or click here. See the list for 2012 here and 2011 here

What are your best and worst books of the year?

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  • / print
I’m way behind on my reviews! Time to catch up. 
(P.S. I’m going to do my best of 2013 round up sometime this week so keep an eye out for that.) 
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King:
I was completely unprepared for this book. I knew it would be good (or at least subjectively good, I rarely dislike a King book), but it turned out to be the flat-out, can’t stop reading, don’t even bother trying kind of King book. The best kind. It’s a sequel to The Shining and I’ve read a few other reviews that said it would be good as a standalone read, but that’s basically horseshit. If you don’t want to read The Shining, at least watch the movie. At least do that. The context established from The Shining gives this sequel weight and importance and interest that I can’t imagine going without. The characterization was rich and detailed and the plot was fast-paced and relatively scary—though not keeps-you-up-at-night scary like some of his earlier books. (Nightmares about clowns: The Worst.) A few complaints: The ending wrapped up the conflict a little faster than I wanted it to and the villains—while creepy—weren’t terrifying. Still, you can’t miss this book. You really can’t. The fact that he wrote a sequel (a GREAT sequel) to a book over 30 years old is really remarkable. 
The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
A lot of people really loved this book. I saw it on some Best of 2013 lists. I partially agree with the positive attention it has received since the characters are fleshed out more realistically than any others in the flashy new suspense-drama-novel genre that Gone Girl created. Seriously, the characterization is good. The two main characters—a devoted wife and a dickish husband—are expressed so well on the page that reading it almost felt like watching a movie. I could see their expressions, hear their tone of voice. It was really enjoyable. On the other hand, the plot was predictable as hell and I’m bored of the “how well do you really know your spouse?” books. (But I guess I wasn’t too bored because I kept an iron grip on my Kindle for the day or so that it took me to read it.) If you’ve got time to kill and an interest in the genre, it’s worth checking out. 
Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
Holy fucking shitballs. Reading this book is like stepping into alternate reality of crazy and I could not and would not step away. Insider or whistleblower nonfiction is one of my favorite things and it doesn’t get much more insidery than this. Wright interviewed dozens and dozens of former Scientologists that had once occupied prestigious positions within the church and the dish he spews as a result is PHENOMENAL. First of all, because I know this will be of huge interest to most people, he frankly eviscerates Scientologist celebrities. Especially Tom Cruise. But while the book is highly entertaining and the celebrity gossip is fulfilling on a very base level, I came away from reading this mostly terrified and sad for members of the Scientology community. I won’t reveal any tidbits or information—that’s why you should read the book!—but goddamn these people are fucking nutters. (And if they’re not nutters, they get taken advantage of by the ones that are.) This book was really eye-opening and scary and one of the best nonfiction things I read this year. 
The Sinking of the Bounty by Matthew Shaer 
This is a short little Kindle Single that I enjoyed. You probably remember the iconic image on the cover from the news. During hurricane Sandy, the HMS Bounty (a replica of the original ship), sank off the coast of North Carolina. This book tries to recreate events that led up to the sinking and then examines the potential reasons behind the captain’s decision to sail during the storm instead of remaining at port. It moves quickly and without much lingering on the emotions or the individual lives of the people at stake (which you may like or not like), but if you have a free hour or two, why not? 
The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg
I read Lackberg’s first book The Ice Princess back at the beginning of the year and I finally got around to the next book in the series. I have a huge soft spot for Swedish crime novels and really enjoyed my time reading The Preacher, but it is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. There were numerous grammatical problems in the Kindle text I read and the translation was spotty here and there. Additionally, Lackberg’s cast of characters and one huge family in particular had me wracking my brain to try and remember who they were. This is more problematic than it might have been because she has tendency to switch from one character and location to another without much of a discernible break in the text. This might be a Kindle formatting issue. Either way, it was annoying to read one paragraph and move on to the next only to realize that I had been teleported to a different time and place. These issues aside, I liked it. I didn’t fall head over heels and I don’t think she improved on the weaknesses of The Ice Princess, but I’m such a fan of the genre that I’m about to start the third book tonight. 
What are you all reading lately?

I’m way behind on my reviews! Time to catch up. 

(P.S. I’m going to do my best of 2013 round up sometime this week so keep an eye out for that.) 

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King:

I was completely unprepared for this book. I knew it would be good (or at least subjectively good, I rarely dislike a King book), but it turned out to be the flat-out, can’t stop reading, don’t even bother trying kind of King book. The best kind. It’s a sequel to The Shining and I’ve read a few other reviews that said it would be good as a standalone read, but that’s basically horseshit. If you don’t want to read The Shining, at least watch the movie. At least do that. The context established from The Shining gives this sequel weight and importance and interest that I can’t imagine going without. The characterization was rich and detailed and the plot was fast-paced and relatively scary—though not keeps-you-up-at-night scary like some of his earlier books. (Nightmares about clowns: The Worst.) A few complaints: The ending wrapped up the conflict a little faster than I wanted it to and the villains—while creepy—weren’t terrifying. Still, you can’t miss this book. You really can’t. The fact that he wrote a sequel (a GREAT sequel) to a book over 30 years old is really remarkable. 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison

A lot of people really loved this book. I saw it on some Best of 2013 lists. I partially agree with the positive attention it has received since the characters are fleshed out more realistically than any others in the flashy new suspense-drama-novel genre that Gone Girl created. Seriously, the characterization is good. The two main characters—a devoted wife and a dickish husband—are expressed so well on the page that reading it almost felt like watching a movie. I could see their expressions, hear their tone of voice. It was really enjoyable. On the other hand, the plot was predictable as hell and I’m bored of the “how well do you really know your spouse?” books. (But I guess I wasn’t too bored because I kept an iron grip on my Kindle for the day or so that it took me to read it.) If you’ve got time to kill and an interest in the genre, it’s worth checking out. 

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright

Holy fucking shitballs. Reading this book is like stepping into alternate reality of crazy and I could not and would not step away. Insider or whistleblower nonfiction is one of my favorite things and it doesn’t get much more insidery than this. Wright interviewed dozens and dozens of former Scientologists that had once occupied prestigious positions within the church and the dish he spews as a result is PHENOMENAL. First of all, because I know this will be of huge interest to most people, he frankly eviscerates Scientologist celebrities. Especially Tom Cruise. But while the book is highly entertaining and the celebrity gossip is fulfilling on a very base level, I came away from reading this mostly terrified and sad for members of the Scientology community. I won’t reveal any tidbits or information—that’s why you should read the book!—but goddamn these people are fucking nutters. (And if they’re not nutters, they get taken advantage of by the ones that are.) This book was really eye-opening and scary and one of the best nonfiction things I read this year. 

The Sinking of the Bounty by Matthew Shaer 

This is a short little Kindle Single that I enjoyed. You probably remember the iconic image on the cover from the news. During hurricane Sandy, the HMS Bounty (a replica of the original ship), sank off the coast of North Carolina. This book tries to recreate events that led up to the sinking and then examines the potential reasons behind the captain’s decision to sail during the storm instead of remaining at port. It moves quickly and without much lingering on the emotions or the individual lives of the people at stake (which you may like or not like), but if you have a free hour or two, why not? 

The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg

I read Lackberg’s first book The Ice Princess back at the beginning of the year and I finally got around to the next book in the series. I have a huge soft spot for Swedish crime novels and really enjoyed my time reading The Preacher, but it is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. There were numerous grammatical problems in the Kindle text I read and the translation was spotty here and there. Additionally, Lackberg’s cast of characters and one huge family in particular had me wracking my brain to try and remember who they were. This is more problematic than it might have been because she has tendency to switch from one character and location to another without much of a discernible break in the text. This might be a Kindle formatting issue. Either way, it was annoying to read one paragraph and move on to the next only to realize that I had been teleported to a different time and place. These issues aside, I liked it. I didn’t fall head over heels and I don’t think she improved on the weaknesses of The Ice Princess, but I’m such a fan of the genre that I’m about to start the third book tonight. 

What are you all reading lately?

  • k 29 notes
What I’ve Read: The Attacking Ocean by Brian Fagan
I started reading this shortly after watching Blackfish and man. Depressing. (But fascinating.) The Attacking Ocean is a sometimes dense, but still riveting nonfiction book about how rising sea levels have affected and are continuing to affect land mass and civilization. Fagan also talks about how these higher sea levels are responsible for the increasing severity of cyclones/hurricanes and tsunamis. 
It’s a sobering, eye-opening book. I knew—in generalities—that global warming was affecting the ocean and severe weather, but this book really drills down on the issues. Its objective, academic tone makes the really scary bits even scarier. The statistics listing thousands upon thousands of people killed by severe storms, the probability that Bangladesh could basically disappear into the ocean within a few generations, the emergency evacuation plans for refugees that some South Pacific islands have in place since they know their island could virtually disappear within the century, the impact of coastal erosion on traditional fishing villages in Alaska…It goes on and on. And it’s pretty terrifying. 
Still, the book is far from sensational. It’s packed full of hard-won research, statistics and data, and Fagan makes it clear he’s not hypothesizing about much except the WHEN. The If is not in question any longer, basically. (Put this in the context of Hurricane Sandy, which he talks at length about, and it hits really close to home—no pun intended.) It seems like Fagan has no real agenda or call to action, except to discuss historical events and enlighten people about how current events are being impacted by increasing global warming. Fagan’s lack of solutions might be the scariest thing about this book. Is there any turning back? Is there a solution (globally or locally) that could actually reverse some of this? Fagan seems to think we’re pretty far gone. 
The Attacking Ocean is well-worth the read, but be forewarned! When I say it’s academic, it’s very academic. If you can’t stand footnotes, this is not your book. (Let me direct you to the new Bridget Jones novel. I’m kidding.) 
Have you read it? Or RELATED (sort of), did you watch Blackfish?

What I’ve Read: The Attacking Ocean by Brian Fagan

I started reading this shortly after watching Blackfish and man. Depressing. (But fascinating.) The Attacking Ocean is a sometimes dense, but still riveting nonfiction book about how rising sea levels have affected and are continuing to affect land mass and civilization. Fagan also talks about how these higher sea levels are responsible for the increasing severity of cyclones/hurricanes and tsunamis. 

It’s a sobering, eye-opening book. I knew—in generalities—that global warming was affecting the ocean and severe weather, but this book really drills down on the issues. Its objective, academic tone makes the really scary bits even scarier. The statistics listing thousands upon thousands of people killed by severe storms, the probability that Bangladesh could basically disappear into the ocean within a few generations, the emergency evacuation plans for refugees that some South Pacific islands have in place since they know their island could virtually disappear within the century, the impact of coastal erosion on traditional fishing villages in Alaska…It goes on and on. And it’s pretty terrifying. 

Still, the book is far from sensational. It’s packed full of hard-won research, statistics and data, and Fagan makes it clear he’s not hypothesizing about much except the WHEN. The If is not in question any longer, basically. (Put this in the context of Hurricane Sandy, which he talks at length about, and it hits really close to home—no pun intended.) It seems like Fagan has no real agenda or call to action, except to discuss historical events and enlighten people about how current events are being impacted by increasing global warming. Fagan’s lack of solutions might be the scariest thing about this book. Is there any turning back? Is there a solution (globally or locally) that could actually reverse some of this? Fagan seems to think we’re pretty far gone. 

The Attacking Ocean is well-worth the read, but be forewarned! When I say it’s academic, it’s very academic. If you can’t stand footnotes, this is not your book. (Let me direct you to the new Bridget Jones novel. I’m kidding.) 

Have you read it? Or RELATED (sort of), did you watch Blackfish?

  • k 14 notes