Quick ‘n’ Dirty

In attempts to make up for lost time (aka me being lazy about blogging) thought I would do a quick and dirty book review of the books I have read since Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee, what I’m in the middle of reading, and looking forward to… reading. So here we go.

Recently Read:

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: This pick wasn’t something I would choose on my own, but was last month’s book for my book club with my girlfrands (we call ourselves the Bougie Boozie Book club… or that’s what I call us, don’t hate, appreciate). Crime novels aren’t really my thing because they feel so contrived or forced… or maybe just obvious to someone like myself who has watched 2 billion hours of Law & Order: SVU. However, I did enjoy this one. Though some parts were still a tad bit forced, and over the top, the story was intriguing, the writing is good, and it was a relatively quick and easy read. This is one of those books that I enjoyed reading on my daily commute because it wasn’t too taxing on the ol’ noggin, and was also something I looked forward to reading after work. Constantly wondering what was next! If you haven’t heard of the book before, it’s a novel about a wife who goes missing on her anniversary, and the sadistic insanity that ensues. For a more in-depth synopsis go here!

2. The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow: Another book that I probably would have never discovered if it wasn’t for my other book club through work (I refuse to acknowledge the lameness of the fact that I’m in 2 book clubs). The author actually gave a talk at work… but I unfortunately missed it because of… well, work. Regardless, it was an extremely eye-opening experience about the United States’ role in solving world hunger (which we’re kind of doing wrong), and the importance of ensuring that Africa becomes an agriculturally sustainable continent. Essentially, this book is about an organization called One Acre Fund that put into practice the old parable “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” One of the reasons that hunger is such a prevalent problem in a continent like Africa is because many smallholder farmers are using the same agricultural technology that we were using in the United States in the 1920’s because of lack of access to this information… I repeat, the 1920’s. One Acre Fund lends smallholder farmers the necessary technology, information, and equipment to improve their farming methods, thus improving their harvest, providing more money for education… or just more food to survive. This book explores a number of smallholder farmers’ experience with One Acre, the profound impact it has on their lives, and the day-to-day struggle to survive and provide as a smallholder farmers in West Africa. For more info go here!

In the middle:

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: Another BBB (Boozie Bougie Book club) pick! Currently about half way through this book and unfortunately I’m not impressed. It’s an extremely interesting story about a World War II vet, who overcomes all kinds of odds, and even attends the Olympics, but I feel that the writing for the first 100+ pages is extremely hard to follow and get into. I am mostly disappointed because multiple reputable magazines called it the “best nonfiction book of the year”. I don’t read a ton of nonfiction, but I can’t imagine how this was the best for 2010 (maybe this is why I don’t read nonfiction?). I’m hoping my mind will be changed by the end of the book, but considering how compelling of a story it is, it should have been easy to propel readers through the novel, but that hasn’t been my experience. It has been a struggle for me, and others I’ve talked to, to get through the book. I’m not sure if it’s too long-winded… or if Hillenbrand just includes a lot of unnecessary instances, but maybe it will all come together at the end. I believe the cinematic adaptation is coming out fairly soon, and I feel might be one of those cases where the movie is actually better than the book. Unbroken.

2. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath: I wouldn’t typically include books I’m reading for class, but this is one of those sort of pseudo-psychology books that I probably would have read on my own and thought it was worth mentioning. Though it specifically addresses change management, I think it has a lot of general good insights about navigating office life, and how to influence those around you. Additionally, it has provided some insight for me about my behavior at work, and where I may need some tweaking. It’s a pretty easy and enjoyable read, so if you’re interested in organizational psychology, or change management, this is the book for you! Check it out!

Future Reads: I always have an endless list of books I hope to read, but here are a few at the top of my list.

1. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: I know I said I don’t usually read crime novels… like two seconds ago, but maybe I’ll be changing my tune. Someone thought I might like this one if I enjoyed Gone Girl, so I thought I would give it a try.

“Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.” source

2. Detroit City Is the Place To Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli: Having lived half of my life in Michigan, and spent a fair amount of time in Detroit and its suburbs where my mom was raised, I’m not unfamiliar with its failings. However, I’ve always believe that Michigan is an unfairly unrecognized state considering how historically relevant it was to music and industrialization (Detroit specifically), the millions of bright college students it churns out every year, and the sheer beauty of Michigan (its surrounded by lakes, people). This book explores the historical context of Detroit’s downfall, but also it’s potential for rebirth.

“Once America’s capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country’s greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest—and, finally, into the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. But the city’s worst crisis yet (and that’s saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neopastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists—all have been drawn to Detroit’s baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier.

With an eye for both the darkly absurd and the radically new, Detroit-area native Mark Binelli has chronicled this convergence. Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Binelli does not shy away from exploring the violence, economic devastation, political corruption, and physical ruin that have ravaged his hometown, but he also offers a glimpse of a long-shot future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning—what could be the boldest reimagining of a postindustrial city in our new century.”  NY Times Review

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: So…. there’s actually a 50% chance I’ve already read this book, I have two copies, but I can’t be sure. I’m hoping to eventually suggest this book for BBB, because is the exact kind of book I would pick. It’s sci-fiesque fiction, but with very tangible hooks in reality, and at its core is still a very human story. On another note, about half of the books I’ve discussed, including this one, have already been turned into movies and yet I haven’t seen any of them. So if you aren’t interested in the book, you can always just see the movie!

“As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance – and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro’s finest work” source

Living that literary life

Arty the Alien