Some of My Favorite Books

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son by Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott

I haven't read Anne Lamott's book, Operating Instructions, the journal of her son's first year. But this book, her first year as a grandmother, was nice to read as a grandmother. When she talks about needing a grandchild fix, I can totally relate. When she wrote of loving every minute she spends with her grandson, I can relate. And when she said when he went home with his parents and that she was exhausted, I can totally relate!

This book was a tad heavy on religion and all that gobbedly goop that she is also famous for writing about, but it was tolerable. My eyes did glaze over a few times, but that's okay.  There were plenty of great passages.

I especially liked her November 27 entry, a letter to Jax, her grandson, on the Secret of Life. She sets it up as that he'll probably think there is a day in second grade when he's absent from school when he'll think the teacher tells everyone the secret of life. Then she writes: 

"But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others, so no one will know that you weren't there the day the instructions were passed out."

That and a few other remarkable passages make this a wonderful book. If I hadn't already read it, I'd read it.

Book Read: Some Assembly Required:  A Journal of My Son's First Son
Author:  Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott
ISBN:   78-1-59448-841-2

Monday, August 27, 2012

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

Perfect Match
is one of Jodi Picoult's older books, her third novel published in 2002, and in some ways it shows. The writing is still good but not as good as her later stuff. And that's understandable. 

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers:  The Story of Success, he says that to get really good at something you have spend 10,000 hours practicing it. I'm sure this applies to novel writing just like playing the piano or playing a sport.

I was trying to figure out the title, Perfect Match, of this from the get-go and finally found it about three-quarters of the way through the book. This novel deals with a 5-year-old boy who was sexually abused and becomes mute. His mother is an assistant district attorney so knows what the court system does to young abuse victims. Some very interesting twists and turns are revealed making this a compelling (though highly improbable) story.

Book Read: Perfect Match
Author:  Jodi Picoult
ISBN:   0-7434-1872-7

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

I just finished reading The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler. Wonderful story! Fabulous writing! A winner all around. Oh, well, I do have one complaint:  this book was too short.

Like all of Anne Tyler's novels, this one had rich characters with oddball monkey wrenches thrown into their lives. The Beginner's Goodbye starts off with Aaron, a thirty-something year old, describing how his newly dead wife shows up unexpectedly, always outside, which is counter to how she lived her life. 

Aaron works for his family's vanity press. They publish, for a fee, beginner's guides to doing just about anything. Aaron is a beginner in many ways himself.

The story is a sweet tale of grief and dealing with someone's passing, then reflecting on a life together when there's some distance to do so.

Book Read: The Beginner's Goodbye
Author: Anne Tyler
ISBN: 978-0-307-95727-6

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver is one of the smartest writers I know. That's also one reason I like her books but feel like I'm swimming upstream against the current in deep water when I read them. I take a breath when I'm done and say to myself, "Whew. That was fun, but I'm glad I survived that!"

The New Republic did not disappoint. Lionel Shriver (she's a woman, by the way, in case this is your first introduction to this writer) delves deep in her characters and the plot. This one was set in the fictional setting of Barba, a penisula off the lower tip of Portugal. She even includes a map with it visible, right there. There it is. Clever, clever.

A lawyer turned journalist, Edgar Kellogg takes a freelance journalist post in the windblown hell hole that is Barba. He replaces a mysterious missing journalist who comes to play a mighty big role in the terrorism claims that hound the contingent of journalists braving the new republic.

Read it. I think you'll like it. Have you read any of Lionel Shriver's books?

Book Read: The New Republic
Author: Lionel Shriver
ISBN: 978-0-06-210332-1

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Wow, I am so glad I finished this book. In the beginning, it sorted of was slow and I wasn't sure if I wanted to invest the time reading it. Ends up, it was really a good story. I think one thing that confused me at first was the flip flopping between "now" and "then."

All That I Am is based on some true events of Jewish refuges from Germany who went to England before World War II. This group worked to raise awareness of crazy Hitler's doings with some surprising twists. The writing is excellent and the story as well.

One line that really was lovely:   "a vessel of memories in a world of forgetting" and toward the end of the book when Ruth, one of the narrators is having lucid dreams:  "Sometimes I would give Dora another life, one with a different ending. The human brain cannot encompass total absence. Like infinity, it is simply not something that the organ runs to. The space someone leaves must be filled, so we dream forever of those who are no longer here. Our minds make them live again. They try, God bless them, to account fro the gap which the brain itself cannot fathom."

Book Read: All That I Am
Author: Anna Funder
ISBN: 978-0-06-207756-1

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Okay, as soon as I got to the second chapter in this book I realized that a friend had told me about it the year it came out:  2008. I wish I'd read it then! She described the book totally on Chapter Two, The 10,000-Hour Rule, which tells about successful people who became successful after 10 years basically. In 10 years, we work about 10,000 hours and it takes that long for someone (anyone) to get really good at something whether it's music, sports, math, or computers.

Outliers is Malcolm Gladwell's third book, and it's the best, I think. I've read parts of his other books, Blink and The Tipping Point, but plan to read them again, all of them this time. 
Outliers tells the stories of why some people succeed and others don't. I won't give away his theories because they are so much fun to read for yourself, but I will say that luck does play a part. Often times.

I especially liked reading about Chris Lagan, a man with a genius IQ, who never had any advantages in life. None. And the rest is history.

Book Read: Outliers
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
ISBN: 978-0-316-01792-3

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lady Almina and The Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon

I picked up this book at the library and wasn't sure if I'd get around to reading it. I'm glad I did. The house where Downton Abbey is set (Highclere Castle) has a real-live lord and lady living there (when they cameras are gone). The lady, Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the Countess of Carnarvon, wrote this book that gives a peek at the real Lady of the house during the time when Downton Abbey is set. 

Her name was Almina Carnarvon, and like Elizabeth McGovern's character, Lady Cora Grantham, she brought an influx of cash to the struggling manor and estate. 

This book sets up Almina's life before she married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and then delves into the hospitals she set up during World War I.  If you like history at all, I think you'd enjoy this book. It has just enough personal bits to keep it interesting and plenty of historical facts that I never knew about as well. Did you know the British royalty changed their last name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor during the Great War (1917) because of the German connotations? I didn't!

Book Read: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
Author:  The Countess of Carnarvon
ISBN: 978-0-7704-3562-2


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