Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Vordak T. Incomprehensible

This is a manual that will help you tap into your inner evil and grow up and rule the world! It goes through picking a evil name, choosing a costume, and building a lair.

This is a fictional manual and won't really help you take over the world. But this book, with it's funny illustrations and rude humor, is quite funny. I think it's most appropriate for little boys, but it had my husband in stitches. I don't really know why I read this book, but it was funny. I'm not really recommending that you go out and read it because you will think that I'm silly for reading it. Just noting that I read it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

At one point, I was #48 on the waiting list for this book at my local library. Lots of people wanted to read this book! I guess they wanted to find out the secret to why Chinese-American children are so successful. According to the author/tiger mother, it takes an authoritarian parent with sky-high expectations who never settles for anything less than perfection. She describes and defends her parenting style and illustrates it with stories about her own daughters and their accomplishments.

I read this book in one morning. It's an easy and not-easy read. It's easy because it's entertaining and humorous at times. But sometimes it's infuriating. Warning: Don't read this before you go to bed because it will wind you up, not down. Also, this book would have been great if it was fiction. But to know that it's non-fiction, that it actually happened? Now that is scary and makes me tremble a bit.

This book raised a lot of questions for me. How do you define success? Is it all about academic and musical achievement? And when does being demanding become abusive?

And what about all of those Chinese-American friends I have that dutifully followed their parents' directives about how much to study, what to study, where to go to school, which career to pursue, which job to take...who have these nice Engineering degrees from excellent schools but:
1) lost themselves in the process
2) really wanted to study Creative Writing (or anything besides Engineering)
3) are stuck working at jobs they hate
4) despise their parents and want nothing to do with them
5) experience a combination of all of the above.

Ok, yes there are some of them out there who actually do enjoy their jobs, find engineering to be extremely fulfilling, and love their parents. At least, I think they are out, if you are, please leave a comment!

Also, I should add that not all Chinese-American parents are like this tiger mother. And maybe I should add that not all Chinese-Americans are the same. While I'm at it, I should add that not all Chinese-American families are like the ones you see on Joy Luck Club. I think that's enough Chinese-American education for today. I'm gonna go get me some sweet and sour pork.

So overall, read this book so you can talk about it. It's a fast read and it raises a lot of questions, but remember to not read it before you want to sleep.

Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia by Harriet Brown

The author's teenage daughter, Kitty, is diagnosed with anorexia. Instead of sending her to an in-patient treatment program, the family decides to try a therapy in which the daughter stays at home. The focus is on helping her gain weight and restoring her physical health before addressing any of the psychological aspects of anorexia. The book goes through the year-long struggle of getting Kitty back to a normal weight and all of the battles, successes, setbacks, and calorie counting (at one point, she is eating 4,000 calories a day).

This was a compelling read. Facts about anorexia and different theories about it are interwoven with the family's story, so this was an educational read as well.

Kitty's menu is mentioned at one point and I learned something new - she ate granola with yogurt and JAM. Hum, I thought. I like to eat parfaits, layering fruit, granola, and yogurt. But I've never added jam. The next day, I added a dab of grape/apple jam to my parfait and wow, that was delicious! It adds just a touch of sweetness.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord

Hector is a psychiatrist who sets off around the world determined to figure out what makes people happy. He travels to China, Africa, and the US, interviews people and jots down his observations in a notebook.

The writing is simple and the chapters are short, but it got a bit tiring at the end. This book reminded me some of Antoine de St. Exupery's The Little Prince because it's whimsical. There is another book that follows this one, but I'll pass. This one was enough for this bear.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb

What do you think of this title? It caught my attention.

The writer decides to research why, after years and years of searching, she had never found Mr. Right.

She takes a look at her dating habits and expectations, and she also examines the expectations of single women around her. A pattern she notices is that women in their 20s end perfectly good relationships because they think that there might be something more, something better next time. As they age, there are fewer and fewer available men, and the men start carrying more baggage (and kids) with them.

She also consults dating experts and matchmakers to try and figure out what she is doing wrong. She reconsiders her ideal of a man, and tries to change her expectations to match what might be more realistic.

This book was quite interesting to read and I wanted to talk about it a lot. The content was somewhat repetitive and disorganized, but I enjoyed the stories. It made me think back to what I was looking for in a husband, and how realistic (or unrealistic?) I was.

Recommended...this book is good food for thought for both the married and single.

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan

The writer of this book, Conor Grennan, stops in Nepal for three months to start off a year-long trek around the world. In Nepal, he works at an orphanage where he learns that the children are not orphans. Their parents are still alive. Grennan learns about, and is appalled by, the child trafficking that brought all of the children to the orphanage. He leaves after three months, but that's not the end of his story in Nepal. He returns and is determined to find the families of the children.

I really liked this book. It was inspiring, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Some parts made me tear up, and I learned quite a bit about Nepal. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker

Because of her struggles with coping with multiple sclerosis, a South African healer recommends that the author, Cami Walker, give something away for the next 29 days. The giving didn't just refer to money, but to time and prayer as well. It meant being intentional and purposeful about giving each day.

Walker launched a website ( and now there's a worldwide movement of people giving each day and tracking their gifts. The goal is to have 29,000 givers and right now it's at about 14,000.

I did start thinking about what I could give each day as I read this book.

One day, I took some magazines that I had read and donated them to a waiting room that I often find myself in. Another day, I gave my cat a full tummy and ear rub. Yesterday, I gave away some homemade banana bread. Today, I mailed off a card and a packet of chili seasoning to some American friends living in China.

See, nothing big, but it is different to be thinking each day about what I can give.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hope Will Find You: My Search for the Wisdom to Stop Waiting and Start Living by Naomi Levy

The author (also a rabbi) finds out that her young daughter has a potentially fatal degenerative disease and this shakes her world. This book is about her struggle to deal with this crisis and the uncertainty while also learning to live and enjoy right now.

A book to savor chapter by chapter. I had to read with my journal nearby so I could copy down quotes. I'm going to check out some more books by this author.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

Maggie, a former Miss Alabama, finds herself 60, never-married, and working as a realtor in Birmingham, Alabama. How did she end up like this? This is something she wonders herself. She decides that there's nothing left to live for, so she makes plans to take her own life. But things keep getting in the way and stopping her.

This is by one of my favorite authors. Quirky, fun characters. Twists in the plots, and lots of humor. An easy, fun read.