Saturday, March 29, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The author takes one year off after a messy divorce and spends four months each in three countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia. In Italy, she focuses on pleasure (learning Italian and eating lots of yummy Italian food). In India, she devotes herself to the spiritual (spending time at an ashram and meditating). Lastly, she stays in Indonesia with the goal of finding balance between pleasure and the spiritual.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the Italy section. Gilbert is a good writer and quite funny too. The India part was kinda weird...I've had some experience with meditation, silent retreats, and meditation, but there was some stuff in this section that was a little too off-the-wall for me and I skimmed portions of it. The Indonesia section recounts details of a love affair that well, I just didn't really need to know about. Overall, I appreciate Gilbert's writing and I enjoyed reading this book for the most part. I guess the thing that I'm still up in the air about is whether I like her as a person.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another quote sent in by my sister, Virgina Woolf.

"I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy, when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, 'Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.'"
--Virgina Woolf

Monday, March 24, 2008

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days by Judith Viorst

A short little book about the three months that Viorst's son and family came to live with her and her husband. (She's the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.) Mildly funny and amusing with thoughts and observations on parenting and grandparenting and learning to be flexible. But, it also made me think that if the worst problem in the world is that your grandchildren make a mess of the house, then life might be pretty good. Some people would love to have that be their only worry and concern.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik

When I'm on vacation, I don't read anything about psychology. So I picked up this book about brain surgery.

Firlik describes her path of becoming a neurosurgeon, including her seven-year residency. It's informative and she describes stuff so that us non-neurosurgeons and non-MDs can understand a bit more about the brain. It was pretty interesting and well-written. However, there's a reason why I'm not in the medical field: I'm not a fan of blood. Even just reading some of the descriptions of things she's seen made me squirm a bit and wiggle my toes.

One more week of spring break, and then it's back to reading about psychology.

A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler

This book is about Barnaby Gaitlin, the classic loser type guy: black sheep in his wealthy family, living in a basement, working a job for hourly pay at Rent-a-Back (a manual labor service for older adults), and turning 30 with a divorce already under his belt. This is the story of his struggle to find love again and also respect from his family. Sometimes it's very funny and his thoughts and observations also ring very true for any ordinary person.

Anne Tyler's characters are peculiar, yet heartwarming. Her books make for relaxing reading, but also make me thoughtful about life and this everyday existence.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Reader's Contribution: A Quote Sent in by my Sister

Here is a quote that my sister sent in for this blog:

"The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions." Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

This from my big sister, who once chastised me for not reading enough fiction. (By the way, this is a picture of Virginia Woolf, not my sister. My sister looks younger.)

Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates

A couple of Saturdays ago, Boomer and I went to the local library's book sale. We got there just in time for the Brown Bag Sale meaning that we bought a brown bag for $4 and could pack as many books into it as we wanted. We walked out with 26 books! This book was one that made it into the bag.

This is the story of teenage Franky Pierson. "Freaky Green Eyes" refers to the up-and-coming mature and confident adult inside of her that makes an appearance every once in awhile. Franky's dad is emotionally and physically abusive and this book delves into how this is all covered up and even justified. The "Freaky Green Eyes" part of Franky begins to see what's really going on and how she can play a part in stopping it all.

Overall, it was an okay book. It was riveting enough for me to keep reading it constantly until I finished it, but it's not one I will keep for my personal library.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

If you're looking for a tearjerker, this is one for you!

I've been a fan of the movie for several years now (it's one of the six DVDs that I own). My friend, who told me he was disappointed in the movie, recommended I read the book. And yes, the storylines are very different, but they are both sweet.

The story is about the unlikely friendship and courtship of Landon Carter, a guy who's just getting by, and Jamie Sullivan, the minister's daughter. It's a formulaic story, but ah well, sometimes a quick, sweet, afternoon read is exactly what I need and this fit the bill.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

One day, during her family's beach vacation, Delia gets up and walks away from it all. She starts a new life in another town, figuring out who she is and reclaiming herself.

Some would not sympathize with a woman who abandons her three teenage children and her husband. Somehow, Tyler makes it so I could understand why Delia does this. It's for herself. Still controversial though.

I was absorbed by this book, the writing and description of ordinary days and events and the stirrings of the heart. This book seemed especially relevant to what I've been thinking about and studying in my Psychology of Aging class about the Middle Passage (or Crisis) when one is "radically stunned into consciousness" (from James Hollis' The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife, 1993) and we evaluate what we've been doing with our lives.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Guest Review: The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, reviewed by Boomer

It is once again my great pleasure to be a guest blogger on El Estante Para Libros. :)

The Great Brain is a short book about the adventures of a boy named John growing up in Utah and his very intelligent and gifted but slightly unscrupulous older brother Tom. Fitzgerald paints John and Tom's stories of growing up against the backdrop of life in a rural and predominantly Mormon town. As The Great Brain, Tom uses his brain for the benefit of others, but usually also to make a profit. The story is told from John's point of view and illustrates both Tom's experience of exploring boyhood as well as John's more simplistic and honest take on events.

I found the book very wholesome and amusing and I found the characters and setting very restful to read. If you were a fond of mystery books growing up such as Encyclopedia Brown and T.A.C.K. then you will definitely enjoy The Great Brain. I'm looking forward to reading more books in Fitzgerald's Great Brain series.

It's Finals Week!

I have two term papers due next week. This is a cartoon I found while avoiding working on them. =D

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by Alexandra Robbins

In high school, I wouldn't have described myself as driven (and I still wouldn't). I worked hard enough to get into the university that I wanted to go to. In college, I wasn't that driven either. I chose a major that I loved to study but I didn't have any grand aspirations for how I would use it after graduation. And in graduate school, well, I'm taking an extra year to finish the program.

I want to do well in whatever I do...and this applies to graduate school and training for this profession, but it also applies to taking care of myself and being fully present to my family and friends and to life. It also helps that I don't like to be busy. I'm not in a rush to get anywhere fast (maybe this also explains why I drive the speed limit!). I like to enjoy the journey and I like to get at least eight hours of sleep every night.

So all that to say that reading about overachieving high school juniors and seniors made me stressed out! This book follows a handful of high school students at a competitive high school back east. Stress mania! It's quite crazy what kids do these days to get into college. The students come to life throughout the book and I enjoyed getting to know them and wanted the best for them. There are, however, random essays interspersed (like on competition to get into pre-school) that interrupted the flow of the book.

I was very aware that this high school seemed quite affluent, where students have the opportunities to participate in every kind of extracurricular activity available and have additional resources to help them out (like tutors, college application coaches, private lessons, etc.). Most of them also had the financial means to attend any university, private or public, that they were accepted to. Not all of us have that chance.

So, an interesting and pretty fast read. However, I do recommend, based on my experience, to not read it during Finals week. It kinda stressed me out more than I already am. =D