Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Dealing with her mom's death, a recent divorce, and some experimentation with drugs, Cheryl Strayed set out to reclaim herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. With no experience or training, she tackles this long trail by herself.

I didn't start off liking this book because I didn't start off liking the author. She made some very poor choices and seemed impulsive and self-centered. Over time though, as I read more and more about her hiking adventures, I really came to like her (except for some romantic decisions she makes on the trail)! She's gutsy, flexible, and has a good heart.

A recommended read!

A word of caution though: if you get queasy reading about losing toenails, this is not the book for you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff

This is a collection of short essays by the founder of Restore International. He writes about the adventures of his life (getting into law school, courting his wife, taking his children to meet world leaders) and challenges us to not just think about what we should do, but to actually do something and engage with life, and show our love.

Each story was fun, and had some wisdom attached. I found it enough to read one chapter a day.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

It's 1914, and Grace Winter is stuck in a lifeboat after a mysterious explosion on their cruise liner. Surrounded by strangers and a wild ocean, Grace reflects on her short marriage and what it will take to survive.

If you want to read a book about being stranded in the ocean, I would suggest Unbroken instead of this one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Kissing List by Stephanie Reents

This is a collection of 12 short stories that feature a group of friends as they enter their 20s and the world of work and dating. The stories are kind of related and kind of not. I liked the writing, but I couldn't keep the characters straight. I guess they didn't make that big of an impression on me. Good lazy afternoon reading, but not a stand-out read to me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen Walker

I was recently at a neighborhood block party talking with the mom of a toddler. She mentioned that she had just read Bringing Up Bebe and I said that I had also read that book. She said, "That's weird that you read that book and you're not a mother." Hey, lady, it's a free country! I didn't tell her that in addition to having just read Bringing Up Bebe, I had also just read Complete Without Kids.

There are lots of parenting books out there (and yes, I've read some of them even though I'm not a mother!) but not so many books out there about NOT having kids. I think that reflects where our society still stands in terms of having kids. Until the 1960s and the introduction of the birth control pill, not having kids wasn't really an option. And although now we have more control over reproduction, our culture still views having kids as an obligation or a given, rather than an option.

This book explores the decision to have kids or not. The circumstances around not having kids affects a couple's lifestyle and later thoughts (and/or regrets) about the decision. For example, there are people who would have liked to have kids, but for various reasons, did not. Had things been different (like if they had gotten married or gotten married at a younger age), they would definitely have wanted kids (childfree by happenstance). Other people consciously choose to not have kids (childfree by choice). Other people can not have kids (childfree by circumstance).

This was a fascinating book to read (just as fascinating as Bringing Up Bebe!). It was very thought-provoking as well. There are questions to consider at the end of every chapter which I think would be useful for any couple deciding whether or not they would like to be parents.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life by Linda Cohen

In order to honor her father's memory after he died, the author decides to perform 1,000 mitzvahs. The word mitzvah can be translated as "commandments" with a root word meaning "attachments." Performing mitzvahs then are opportunities to feel more attached to God, each other, and ourselves.

Cohen organizes the book based on different types of categories such as food, money, driving, animals, gratitude, birthdays, and traveling. She gives different ideas under each heading and provides examples of what she did.

This is a very inspirational, but practical book. It's inspirational in that she shows how even little acts of kindness can make the world a better place. It's practical because the acts of kindness she suggests are very do-able.

As I read this book (which I think is best read slowly and thoroughly), I thought more about what I could do to bring more hope and kindness into the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Guest Review- An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen

I read the first 100 pages of this book and then lost interest. Then, Boomer picked it up and actually read the whole book. So here is Boomer and his guest post.

By way of introduction, Boomer is the most non-picky eater I have ever met. He also finishes every book that he starts.

Boomer says:
Insightful in an economist sort of way, but judgmental and snobby. This book takes a look at food and how to get the best value (the best meal for the least money).

I like how the author thinks in terms of getting off the beaten path to find amazing meals and great deals. As someone interested in solving world hunger, I was intrigued by his insights into how agri-business and large scale food production has affected eating and hunger issues around the world.

On the flip side, I found the chapters about good/bad ethnic foods and choosing stateside ethnic restaurants to be highly judgmental. As a non-Caucasian, it's insulting to have my culture's cuisine judged by a Caucasian economist and self-proclaimed foodie. I don't care how many times you've been to a country. 20+ visits neither makes you a culinary authority nor gives you the right to judge my culture's cuisine. I would love to learn more about the macroeconomics of food, but please keep your judgmental attitude to yourself.

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Sometimes when I read a book or watch a movie, there is an ending that I totally did not expect. The twist unfolds in the last pages or minutes and things suddenly make sense. I'm left saying, "Ohhhh!" It's fun! However, sometimes when I'm about 2/3 through a book or a movie, I figure out how the story is going to end. Then, it's just downhill from there. There might be a little twist, but usually it's just straightforward.

Unfortunately, this was a book in which I figured out the twist about halfway through. It wasn't even an original twist. If you've seen the movie You've Got Mail, you've already seen the basic concept.

The first half was pretty readable and interesting, and then it became a bit unbelievable. Am I really supposed to believe that an inattentive and absent husband in real life could really be relational, caring, and thoughtful to his wife when he's online?

Solid writing, but with holes in the concept. Skip!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life by Rupinder Gill

As a daughter of immigrant parents from India, Rupinder lived a sheltered life while growing up in Canada. Her parents did not enroll her in extracurricular activities or encourage her to socialize.

At age 30, she realizes how much she missed out on as a child, and decides to experience those things she missed out on.

Her list:
1. Learn to swim.
2. Take lessons.
3. Visit Disney World.
4. Go to camp.
5. Have a pet.

I loved this book. Rupinder is a very likable person. She's someone who seems really friendly, down-to-earth, and caring. I'd like to have coffee with her.

She also ends up quitting her job. I love it when people quit their jobs because they want something more (I know that this isn't always possible because of financial reasons, etc.). Rupinder really challenges herself and questions rules that she's lived by her life. She identifies what's been holding her back and moves toward experiencing more freedom.

Plus, she is really funny.

This has to rank up as one of my most favorite books of the year so far!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love by Carole Radziwill

This is an amazing and beautifully written memoir by Carole Radziwill, a reporter for ABC, who married Anthony Radziwill, cousin of John F. Kennedy, Jr. She starts off describing her working class upbringing and her early career adventures. But the bulk of the book is about her relationship with her husband and his five-year battle with cancer. She becomes great friends with both John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy who tragically die (along with Carolyn's sister) three weeks before Anthony dies.

A very honest look at family, end-of-life issues, and grief. It's a little slow at the start, but I could not put it down after the first several chapters.

The only minus is that there were multiple grammar errors. However, someone who checked out the book before me kindly corrected all of the mistakes very neatly in a fine-tipped blue pen.