Monday, September 26, 2011

Growing Up Amish: A Memoir by Ira Wagler

I've wanted to learn more about Amish life, so this book caught my eye.

Wagler writes about his Amish upbringing and his struggle to decide whether or not he wanted to stay in the Amish community. He left several times and lived in the non-Amish world, and always returned only to feel constricted and wanting freedom. He finally left for good at age 26.

Wagler writes really well about the inner struggle and turmoil he experienced. He writes about his years-long courtship and break-up with an Amish girl, and that was heartbreaking. I was reading that part right before I went to bed, and almost didn't read it because I didn't want to read something so sad before closing my eyes on the day.

I was really into this book mostly because I am curious about Amish life, but also because it's well-written and moves along at a quick pace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim

Park So-nyo is the mother of four adult children. One day, she goes missing in a Seoul subway station. This story is told in four parts from four different perspectives. This made each part a little confusing until I figured out who exactly it was who was telling the story.

We find out family secrets and learn about who this mother was, and the kids' and husband's regrets when she goes missing.

My conclusion about this book: very good, but very sad.

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

The author used to live in Manhattan and worked in advertising, and his partner, Brent, worked for Martha Stewart. They decided to buy a mansion/farm on 60 acres in Sharon Springs, New York and become weekend farmers, commuting to the farm on weekends and then back into New York City for the work week. Kilmer-Purcell writes about the toll this took on their relationship, the joy they found in learning how to farm, and what is was like to live in a closer-knit community.

Funny and heartfelt. I loved how they wanted to get out of the rat race, and that they found a way to do this. A sign of a good book: as I was reading, I kept wondering, "Who can I give this book to?"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness by Dominique Browning

The author was the editor-in-chief of House & Garden when she suddenly found herself unemployed when the magazine folded. She writes about her adjustment to unemployment (but it doesn't seem like she really needs the money), a slower pace of life, and the emotional ups and downs.

I read this book slowly because it was so honest and I liked the writer. Browning rediscovers joy in living and in activities that give her life (gardening, playing the piano, baking).

The one annoying thing about this book is her on-again, off-again relationship with a married man. Who, by the way, sounds like an a******. Bleh!

Also, the ending seems to fizzle out to nothing and was kinda disappointing after such a rich and enjoyable read (minus the whole jerk boyfriend thing).

So, yes, I do recommend this book. Just consider yourself warned about the jerk boyfriend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

There are at least three Emilys that I know of that read this blog. And they each recommend books to me. Thanks! This is another Emily-recommended book.

This story takes place in rural Mississippi in the late 1970s. Silas and Larry are unlikely friends (black, white, poor, middle class, etc.) until there's a crime that Larry allegedly commits. Their friendship is broken. Twenty years later, they are both back in the same small town when a girl is murdered and Larry is suspected. Secrets come out and their friendship is reconsidered.

The Emily that recommended this one to me loved it. I didn't love it...but now that I type that, I am remembering that I was trying to figure out when I would have time to read it (for example, I thought: Ok, if I get to work early, I'll have 15 minutes to read), so maybe I did like it more than I thought. Didn't love it, but I did like it and it's a solid novel that reads easily.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard

At age 11, Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped by a couple when she was walking to the school bus. She was held captive in a backyard where she was sexually and mentally abused until she was rescued at age 29. She was not allowed to say her real name and instead, went by the name Allissa. She gave birth to her two daughters when she was 14 and 17 (fathered by her kidnapper).

I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to read this book. I started it out slowly because reading about the sexually abuse and rapes was quite horrifying. However, I kept reading because I knew that Dugard would be eventually rescued.

I'm glad I kept reading. Despite years of isolation and abuse, Dugard seems to be a warm, smart, aware woman who wants the best for her children. She really seems like someone who would be nice to talk to and who wants to emotionally connect with people. Of course, she's still going through healing and therapy, but she's also set up a foundation (with animal-assisted therapy because pets helped her through her captivity) that will help others who have been abducted and abused. I'm amazed at what she went through and who she has become despite the nightmare she lived through.

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic by Professor X

Professor X wrote an article of the same name in The Atlantic back in June 2008. He has worked as an adjunct professor teaching English composition classes for ten years. He writes about his students, his thoughts on the college system, and if college is really necessary for everyone.

I really liked this book! I did teach writing (albeit writing for English as a Foreign Language students) for a year, and took the students through the process of writing a sentence, a paragraph, a five-paragraph essay, and finally, a research paper. It was tiring yet rewarding work....and maddening at times, so I appreciated what Professor X had to say about learning/teaching how to write. At times, the book was quite poignant, especially when he writes about how he gets to know the lives of his students through their writing.

I recommend you read this book if you have any interest in reading or writing, or if you've ever taught writing...or learned to write from a really good teacher.

"Over the years, I have come to think that the two most crucial ingredients in the mysterious mix that makes a good writer may be 1) having read enough throughout a lifetime to have internalized the rhythms of the written word, and 2) refining the ability to mimic those rhythms. It is very difficult to make up for gaps in a lifetime of reading and practice over the course of a fifteen-week semester." --Professor X

Friday, September 2, 2011

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans

"...the truth is, I've found more people to be much more receptive to the gospel when they know becoming a Christian doesn't require becoming a know-it-all. Most of the people I've encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them." --Rachel Held Evans

The author grew up going to church and attended Bible college only to find herself questioning her faith in her 20s. She learns that finding real faith involves asking questions, expressing doubts, and challenging what we've been told and taught...and engaging with God and others.

I think this book is a real challenge (and it should be a welcomed one) to the Christians who think they know it all and, with just enough equipping, can answer all questions about faith. Where is the dialogue? And the safety to say, "I don't know"? Sometimes just expressing that you're not sure about something is met with lots of intellectual reasons from Christians who...might be threatened by the not-knowing?

I wish that churches asked people to read this book instead of books about how to share the gospel. I think this book would be much more useful in examining our own answers...and questions...and our own faith.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels--A Love Story by Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond is the author of the super famous blog, The Pioneer Woman. I faithfully read her blog for a long time and then, well, I'm not online so much anymore so the number of blogs I follow has been greatly reduced.

Drummond's story is that she was a big-city gal planning on moving to Chicago when she was swept off her feet by a cowboy (she calls him Marlboro Man). She has most of this story posted on her blog, so reading this book was not too new.

The book was an easy read, but there were a couple of things that struck/annoyed me:
1- She doesn't seem to speak the emotional truth in the moment. For example, after her dog dies and after she finds out that her parents are divorcing, when Marlboro Man asks what's wrong, she says that she's fine. I'm didn't detect a lot of emotional intimacy in their relationship.
2- The book was repetitive. She chronicles date after date of making dinner, watching a movie, and making out. Ok, I didn't need all that description, especially of the kissing.
3- There was a lot of descriptions of Marlboro Man's body, especially his arms. So there was a lot of lust? Ok, got it, again, I didn't need all of the descriptions.

In conclusion, I recommend her blog (I'd still read it if I was online more often), but skip the book.